Telecom firms linked to the UN-recognised Yemen government said on Sunday they fear Houthi rebels are planning to sabotage a network of submarine cables in the Red Sea critical to the functioning of the western internet, and to the transmission of financial data.
The warning came after a Houthi-linked Telegram channel published a map of the cables running along the bed of the Red Sea. The image was accompanied by a message: “There are maps of international cables connecting all regions of the world through the sea. It seems that Yemen is in a strategic location, as internet lines that connect entire continents – not only countries – pass near it.”
Yemen Telecom said it had made both diplomatic and legal efforts during the past few years to persuade global international telecom alliances not to have any dealings with the Houthis since it would provide a terrorist group with knowledge of how the submarine cables operated. It has been estimated that the Red Sea carries about 17% of the world’s internet traffic along fibre pipes.
In a statement, Yemen’s General Telecommunications Corporation condemned the threats of the Houthi terrorist militia to target international submarine cables.
It warned as many as 16 of these submarine cables – which are often no thicker than a hosepipe and are vulnerable to damage from ships’ anchors and earthquakes – pass through the Red Sea towards Egypt. One of the most strategic is the 25,000km (15,500 mile) Asia-Africa-Europe AE-1 that goes from south-east Asia to Europe via the Red Sea.
Security analysts at the Gulf Security Forum claimed last week in a report the “cables have been kept safe more due to the Houthis’ relative technological underdevelopment than for a lack of motivation”.
It added “the Houthis have maintained the capability to harass surface shipping through missiles and fast-attack craft but lack the submersibles necessary to reach the cables”.
However, it warned the cables at some points run at a depth of 100 metres, reducing the need for hi-tech submarines. In 2013, three divers were arrested in Egypt for attempting to cut an undersea cable near the port of Alexandria that provides much of the internet capacity between Europe and Egypt.
Moammar al-Eryani, the information minister in Yemen’s Aden-based government, said the Houthis posed a serious threat to “one of the most important digital infrastructures in the world”, adding the Houthis are a terrorist group that has no ceiling or limits.
Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdul Salam has said the Houthis are willing to use new tactics to stop the American-British aggression against Yemen.
He said, our “decision to support Gaza is firm and principled and will not be affected by any attack. Regarding Yemeni military capabilities, we would like to stress that they are not easy to destroy and have been rebuilt during years of harsh war. Instead of escalation and igniting a new front in the region, America and Britain should submit to international public opinion, which demands an immediate halt to the Israeli aggression, lift the siege on Gaza, and stop protecting Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people.”
Tyler Fields is your internet guru, delving into the latest trends, developments, and issues shaping the online world. With a focus on internet culture, cybersecurity, and emerging technologies, Tyler keeps readers informed about the dynamic landscape of the internet and its impact on our digital lives.