Arms smuggling foiled on border [Archives:2004/714/Front Page]

February 23 2004

RIYADH, Feb 22 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia foiled an attempt to smuggle in ammunition and explosives from neighbouring Yemen last week, just days after summit talks over a disputed barrier along their porous border, a Saudi newspaper reported on Sunday.
Okaz Daily quoted Saudi security officials as saying the smugglers fled after border guards intercepted them on Friday in a mountainous region of Jizan province. They left 10 “high explosive” bombs and 50 rounds of ammunition, the paper said.
Saudi Arabia, battling a wave of violence blamed on supporters of Saudi-born Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, has seized tones of explosives and ammunition in the last year and tightened controls over its desert and mountain borders. But its southern neighbour Yemen complained that a barrier along their joint border violated a treaty establishing a demilitarised zone on both sides of the boundary.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi said after a two-day summit last week that Saudi Arabia had agreed to dismantle the barrier, which he said stretched for tens of kilometers along the 1,300-km (800-mile) border.
Yemen says the barrier is in parts a raised concrete-filled pipeline and in others a sand barrier.
Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Ahmed bin Abdul-Aziz said after the talks that his country had built “hurdles such as sand dikes” on its side of the border and was discussing construction of similar dikes on the Yemeni side.
Saudi security forces have frequently clashed with smugglers from Yemen ) the governor of Jizan said last year that border guards “find an arms haul every hour” ) but the dispute over the barrier has put the problem in the spotlight. Saudi officials are likely to point to Friday's night-time arms seizure as proof that its unsealed borders continue to give smugglers the chance to supply militants behind last year's suicide bombing that killed more than 50 people in Riyadh.
A joint statement issued after the Saudi-Yemeni talks said the two sides agreed to patrol jointly the border and set up observation stations to curb smuggling.