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Thursday, November 12, 2009     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Saudi ships blockade North Yemen after capture of Iran vessel

ABU DHABI — Saudi Arabia has imposed a naval blockade on Yemen in an effort to prevent weapons reaching Shi'ite rebels from Iran.   

Officials said the Royal Saudi Naval Forces deployed three ships along the Red Sea coast of northern Yemen. They said the Saudi navy was tracking all vessels that were approaching the northern Yemeni coast.

"This is meant to stop any weapons coming to the rebels," an official said.

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Officials said the Believing Youth movement was receiving weapons shipments from Iran to maintain the rebellion in northern Yemen. They said the Saudi warhips were under orders to stop and search any suspicious ship near the Yemeni coast.

In October 2009, Yemen reported the capture of an Iranian-operated weapons ship near the northern coast. Five Iranian crew members were captured and interrogated.

Over the last two weeks, the Saudi military launched its biggest offensive since the 1991 war with Iraq. Officials said the Royal Saudi Air Force has been using its fleet of F-15, Tornado and AH-64 aircraft. Most of the air strikes emanated from the Tabouk air base.

"We are not going to stop the bombing until the Houthis [Shi'ite rebels] retreat tens of kilometers inside their border," Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khaled Bin Sultan said.

Officials said the Saudi naval blockade has been coordinated with Yemen. They said both Riyad and Sanaa agree that Iran was relaying surface-to-air missiles and other weapons to the Believing Youth, at war with the Sanaa regime since 2004.

"The rebels began planning attacks in Saudi Arabia as early as September," an official said. "They tried to exploit the absence of Saudi forces along the border."

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