Al-Qaeda, ISIS compete for recruits in war-torn Yemen – UN report

People gather among the rubble of a Sufi mosque that was blown up in the southwestern city of Taiz, Yemen, July 30, 2016.  © Anees Mahyoub
Yemen’s Houthi rebels used civilians as human shields, Saudi-led coalition bombed civilian sites, Islamic State and Al-Qaeda are strengthening and competing for recruits, says the latest UN report on the conflict in the country, Reuters reports.

The 105-page report to the UN Security Council covering the past six months in Yemen was seen by the agency on Thursday. The data was collected remotely, the UN expert panel said in the report, as they couldn’t go to the country.

"The panel has documented violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law committed by the Houthi-Saleh forces, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and forces affiliated to the legitimate Government of Yemen," the document reportedly says.

In particular, the document detailed a few Saudi-led bombings: one of a civilian home in Al-Mahala village in May, and three other cases being probed now.

Saudi officials were quick to say they follow the international humanitarian legislation. Earlier, there was a Saudi-led investigation into bombings on markets, clinics and a wedding in Yemen, and it justified the strikes with the fact that there were allegedly militants at the locations.

Another issue touched upon in the report, is the Houthi rebels using civilians as human shields, having concealed fighters and equipment close to civilians in Al Mukha in the Taiz Governorate "with the deliberate aim of avoiding attack."

Houthis, the military group in opposition to the Yemeni government since the 2004 uprising, also allegedly transferred some $100 million monthly from the central bank to back their military action.

The UN report added that the rebel group could receive even more. When they seized the capital, Sanaa, last year, their forces became listed on the army roster and could get the state funding.

It is reported that the Yemeni foreign reserves of the central bank had plunged from $4.6 billion in November 2014 to $1.3 billion in June 2016.

RT contributor Catherine Shakdam, political analyst, writer and commentator for the Middle East, believes there are a lot of questions to be answered about the Saudis' role in the Yemeni conflict.

"I think that the Saudi are playing a very dangerous game. You have to understand what it is they want in the region to really understand why certain things are happening in Yemen. And why is Al-Qaeda or ISIS is making a return in southern Yemen where the Saudi have said to be in control? Aden is under Saudi occupation, de facto, there are Saudi troops in Aden. Why is Al-Qaeda returning? Are they in control?"

Al-Qaeda and ISIS taking advantage

Yemen isn’t only torn by fighting between the government and the Houthis: Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) used the conflict to take control of territories in southern and eastern Yemen, the report added.

Also, recently their ammunition and techniques have become better, according to the report. In particular, they allegedly have the new advanced improvised explosive device (IED) designs, and have more reliable electronic detonators than before.

Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) followed Al-Qaeda shortly thereafter, with the two terrorist organizations "undermining one another as they compete for recruits."

The report added that in March and April this year IS received a large amount of funds in Yemen, “to attract recruits, finance operations, and purchase equipment,” but the experts didn’t specify the source of the cash flow.