Houthi militias in Yemen, with the help of Iran, drove staffers and operators out of the Sanaa International Airport and its control tower and replaced them with their loyalists trained on air traffic control in Tehran.
The development comes when negotiations between the insurgency group and the official state about resuming commercial flights from and to the capital’s airport have hit several hurdles.
Houthis have sent dozens of security personnel who received training in Iran through a neighboring country, former officials in Sanaa’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Deployees to the airport had received extensive training on dealing with air navigation radars and managing the control tower at the Sanaa International Airport.
They were also taught how to use airborne and aircraft communications.
According to ex-officials, this enables the group to have total air traffic control over Yemeni airspace as CAA operations and activity are not yet wholly transferred to the interim capital, Aden, where the internationally recognized government is based.
Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi had ordered the full transfer of the CAA to Aden over six years ago. But Houthis still control the administration of permits for the landing, take-off, and transit of aircraft within Yemen. They also run the regional center that provides the Area Control Center “ACC” service.
Aviation officials removed from their posts warn of the dangers of the militias dominating Yemeni administrative aviation, enabling them to control and obtain information about civil air traffic.
The Iran-backed militias could use their control over Yemeni airspace in plotting terrorist attacks like the one that targeted the plane carrying members of the Yemeni government to Aden in late 2020.
By running the CAA, Houthis receive and maintain all the details of any civilian aircraft as soon as it enters Yemeni airspace until it lands or exits.