As the United States
pushes for an end to the UN
arms embargo on Somalia, UN monitors are reporting that Islamist militants in the Horn of Africa nation are receiving arms from distribution networks linked to Yemen
The UN Security Council's
sanctions monitoring team's concerns about Iranian and Yemeni links to arms supplies for al Shabaab militants come as Yemen is asking Tehran to stop backing armed groups on Yemeni soil.
Last month Yemeni coast guards and the US Navy seized a consignment of missiles and rockets the Sanaa government says were sent by Iran.
According to the latest findings by the monitoring group, which tracks compliance with UN sanctions on Somalia and Eritrea,
most weapons deliveries are coming into northern Somalia - that is, the autonomous Puntland and Somaliland regions - after which they are moved farther south into Shabaab strongholds
The supply chains in Yemen are largely Somali networks in that country, council diplomats said on condition of anonymity.
"In Galguduud (central Somalia), Shabaab received arms, including IED (improvised explosive device) components," a Security Council diplomat said, referring to one of the Somalia/Eritrea Monitoring Group's most recent confidential reports. Several other council diplomats confirmed his remarks.
Other weapons supplied included PKM machine guns, said the group's monthly report for January.
Yemen is proving to be of central importance for arming Shabaab, the monitors' reporting shows, both because it is feeding arms into northern Somalia and because it has become a playing field for Iranian interests in Somalia and elsewhere.
The UN Security Council's Panel of Experts on Iran, which monitors compliance with the Iran sanctions
regime, including the arms embargo on Tehran, is also looking at Yemen and evidence of Iranian arms shipments across Africa, council diplomats told Reuters.
Iran's UN mission did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
The monitors found Iranian and North Korean-manufactured
weapons that came to Somalia via Libya
at a base of the UN-backed African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia.
Diplomats who follow the issue said the arms were apparently recovered by the peacekeepers and raised important questions.
"Why are Iranian and North Korean small arms finding their way into Somalia from Libya? Do they date from before the arms embargoes (against both North Korea and Iran)? How did they get there from Libya?" a council diplomat asked.
"It certainly emphasizes the point that Somalia is a country awash with arms and still very fragile," the diplomat said.
UN discussions on the Somalia arms embargo are expected to continue through March, when the Security Council must pass a resolution to renew the mandate of the AU peacekeeping force.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
has said the 15-nation council should consider lifting the arms embargo to help rebuild Somalia's security forces and consolidate military gains against the al Qaeda-linked
al Shabaab militants.
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