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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Saudi Arabia says thousands of arms seized at Yemen border since 2016

More than 3,500 weapons and stashes of ammunition were captured, most of them on the Yemen border, interior ministry says

Newly recruited Houthi fighters hold up their weapons in Sanaa before heading to the front line to fight against government forces, on November 16, 2017. Mohamed Al Sayaghi / Reuters
Newly recruited Houthi fighters hold up their weapons in Sanaa before heading to the front line to fight against government forces, on November 16, 2017. Mohamed Al Sayaghi / Reuters

Saudi Arabia says it has seized thousands of weapons and hundreds of smugglers crossing over from war-hit Yemen in the past year, as "foreign agents" looked to stage attacks in the kingdom.

Border guard data from October 2016 to September this year, released by the interior ministry on Friday, showed that more than 3,500 weapons and stashes of ammunition were captured.

"Most arms were seized on the Saudi-Yemeni border," the ministry said, adding that the "seizures come amid attempts by foreign agents to organise terrorist attacks in kingdom".

The ministry said 4,656 suspects were arrested at the frontier in connection with attempted smuggling, "over half" of them from Yemen.

More than 2,311 tonnes of qat - the narcotic leaf popular in Yemen that is banned in Saudi Arabia - were also seized, it said.

The release of the data comes the morning after Saudi air defence intercepted a missile fired at its territory by Yemen's Iran-backed rebels.

A Saudi-led military coalition has been locked in a fight with the Houthi rebels since it joined the Yemen war in 2015. The coalition is seeking to restore Yemen's internationally-recognised government headed by president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.

Riyadh accuses its arch-rival Iran of arming the Houthi rebels and the conflict in the country has ratcheted up tensions in the long-standing rivalry between the two regional powers.

The latest attempted missile attack on Saudi territory came after a similar launch on November 4 that saw the Saudi-led coalition tighten a blockade on Yemen to prevent weapons supplies to the rebels.

Iran denied allegations it supplied weapons or was responsible for the missile attack, which the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman said "could be considered an act of war".

However, an independent panel of UN monitors has said the remnants of four ballistic missiles fired into Saudi Arabia by the Houthi rebels this year appear to have been designed and manufactured by Iran. Their finding was contained in a confidential November 24 report to the UN Security Council seen by Reuters.

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