Yemeni sailors and army forces detained two boats with seven Eritrean gunmen near the Hunaish Islands, where Eritrean navy forces have been harassing Yemeni fishermen
Red Sea Coast Guard detains Eritreans attacking Yemeni fishermen
Yemen’s government-controlled Red Sea Coast Guard on Wednesday detained a group of Eritrean gunmen who attempted to hijack the boats of Yemeni fishermen off the coast of the Hunaish Islands in the Red Sea.
The detained Eritreans were transported to Zuqar, one of the islands in the archipelago, where Yemeni military units are stationed, fishermen told Almasdar Online.
The Coast Guard’s top commander, Maj. Gen. Khalid Al-Qummaly, told Aden Al-Ghad newspaper that Yemeni sailors and army forces detained two boats with seven Eritrean gunmen on board, adding that a third boat equipped with a .50 caliber machine gun escaped.
The Eritrean Navy has detained at least 15 Yemeni fishing boats around the Hunaish archipelago in less than a week. On May 30, seven boats carrying 57 Yemeni fishermen were intercepted. After beating the fishermen, threatening to kill them and confiscating their fish, the Eritrean soldiers forced them to return to the islands on a single boat in which they nearly drowned.
On June 1, commander of the Red Sea Coast Guard Col. Abduljabbar Zahzuh, rejected rumors that the Eritrean navy had re-occupied the archipelago.
Some observers see the uptick in Eritrean attacks on Yemeni fishermen and attempt to exploit the current unrest in Yemen and revive historical ambitions on the islands.
The Hunaish Islands, which includes Hunaish Al-Kubra (Grand Hunaish) and Hunaish Al-Sughra (Small Hunaish), are flanked by international shipping lanes in the Red Sea. Eritrea seized the archipelago in 1995 and agreed to withdraw in 1998.
The Houthis briefly took control of the islands at the outbreak of Yemen’s civil war in early 2015, before losing them to the internationally recognized government by December of the same year.
Edited by Casey Coombs