Increasing Flights from Turkey Raise Concerns That Sunni Jihadis Will Head to Yemen

Yemeni political and security officials are concerned over the Turkish Airlines decision to increase its flights from the Istanbul to Aden in Yemen. The Yemenis are not hiding their concern that the purpose of the flights is to move Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorists into the territory of Yemen.

Turkish Airlines recently announced that it plans to increase the number of direct flights from Istanbul to Aden International Airport to seven flights a week, at the end of next month. The new decision is surprising in light of the deteriorating security situation in southern Yemen, where increasing military violence is pushing the country to the verge of civil war.

Commentators in the Arab world believe that this decision is neither for tourism nor trade purposes, since heavy fighting in Yemen means there is no tourist demand for so many flights. They told the Al-Arab newspaper (Arabic link) that the hidden agenda behind the Turkish Airways decision, is that Turkey wants to expand its influence in the region. The commentators suspect Turkey of transferring   not just ammunition and combat equipment into the city of Aden, but also Sunni terrorists who fought in Syria and Iraq in order to fight against the Shiite military forces that are backed by Iran.

Media in Yemen recently reported that Turkey is using this process to repeat the scenario that played out in Syria, when it helped in bringing extremist Sunnis to fight Bashar al-Assad. Now Ankara is trying to do so under the pretext of trade and tourism exchanges in Yemen. Abdullah al-Shami, a senior politician in Yemen, said that Turkey is trying to take advantage of the current political vacuum in southern Yemen to help terrorist organizations operating in its territory. If true, this is another Turkish attempt to strengthen Turkish-supported terror groups operating against Shiites in Yemen.

Security reports in the Arab world and the West suggest that for the last four years Turkey, under President Recep Erdogan, has helped various terrorist organizations operating in Syria and Iraq. It finances them and facilitates the transfers of tens of thousands of terrorists into Syria and Iraqi territory. According to these reports, the Turkish cities and towns, especially those close to the border, have become a safe haven of terrorists from all over the world.

Over the weekend, the Gulf States condemned what they called a Houthi “coup” in Yemen. The Houthis are an Iran-backed group of rebels. Arab analysts predict that the Sunni Gulf states will act soon to try to prevent the repetition of a Lebanon-like scenario from developing in Yemen. In Lebanon, Iran strengthened its proxy Hezbollah army financially and militarily in a way that has destabilized that country. Hezbollah fighters operating independently from the Lebanese Armed Forces in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and the organization has prevented a government from being formed. Thousands of Hezbollah fighters are also fighting alongside the Syrian army to prop up Assad’s government.

Houthi Shiite rebels seized control of the Yemen’s capital Sana’a and other areas in northern Yemen and since there is a state of anarchy in the impoverished country. In January, the Houthis raided the presidential palace and besieged the residence of then-President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Within days Hadi and his cabinet resigned. The Wall Street Journal reports (Google link) that the Houthis announced that they are taking over the government, a move condemned by a number of opposition groups.

Meanwhile, protests continue in Yemen against Houthi’s takeover of the decision-making centers. Demonstrations were held over the weekend in three different locations in central Yemen. Houthi militias used live ammunition to disperse one of the demonstrations.

[Photo: وللَه العزة ولرسوله وللمؤمنين / Youtube]