* Report says diesel could have been bound
* Diplomat says arms may have been intended for Somalia too
* UN monitors say al-Shabaab remains strong despite setbacks
* Al-Shabaab may have exported IED know-how to Kenya, Uganda (Adds
By Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS, July 1 (Reuters) - An Iranian ship laden with arms
seized by Yemeni authorities in January may also have been bound for
Somalia, according to a confidential U.N. report seen by Reuters on
Yemeni forces intercepted the ship, the Jihan 1, off Yemen's coast on
Jan. 23. U.S. and Yemeni officials said it was carrying a large cache of
weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, being smuggled from Iran to
insurgents in Yemen.
The confidential U.N. report, by the U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia
and Eritrea, cited Yemeni officials as saying that it was possible
diesel carried aboard the ship could have been intended for shipment to
The group, which tracks compliance with Security Council sanctions,
raised concerns in the report about the flow of weapons to Islamist al-Shabaab
militants since the U.N. Security Council eased an arms embargo on
Somalia's fragile Western-backed government earlier this year.
The report did not explicitly say that weapons on the ship were headed
for Somalia, but one U.N. Security Council diplomat said that if it was
true that the diesel was intended for Somalia, it could not be ruled out
that other items on the ship, including weapons, might also have been
intended for there.
Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for Iran's U.N. mission, rejected the
suggestion that Iran could be connected in any way with arms supplies to
"These are some baseless allegations and ridiculous fabrications about
the Islamic Republic of Iran," he said. "This alleged report by the
Monitoring Group on Somalia on arms shipments from Iran carries no basis
or the minimum rationality."
A Western diplomat said that the fact that there were 16,716 blocks of
C4 explosive on the Jihan 1 suggested a potential connection between
Iran and al-Shabaab in Somalia, as Huthi rebels, unlike al-Shabaab, were
not known to use C4.
The U.N. mission for Somalia did not respond immediately to a request
The U.N. experts wrote that according to Yemeni security officials, the
arms and ammunition were well-packed in small containers concealed
inside several large compartments filled with diesel fuel.
"Yemeni officials indicated that this arms consignment was to be
delivered to the Huthi rebellion in north Yemen," the report to the
Security Council's sanctions committee said. "However the Monitoring
Group investigated if some of the Jihan 1 cargo could have been intended
for delivery in Somalia."
"When asked about this, security officials confirmed that the diesel
could have been bound for Somalia," the report said. "Members of the
crew have also divulged to a diplomatic source who interviewed them in
Aden that the diesel was bound for Somalia."
The potential Somalia connection was not raised in a recent report by
the U.N. Panel of Experts on Iran that monitors compliance with the U.N.
sanctions regime against Tehran.
That report said five of the Iran panel's eight members found that all
available information clearly placed Tehran at the center of the Jihan
arms smuggling operation. But three panel members - who U.N. diplomats
said were from Russia, China and Nigeria - said the Jihan incident was a
"probable", not definite, violation of the U.N. ban on Iranian arms
AL-SHABAAB REMAINS STRONG
The latest experts' report said Yemen was the top source of arms in
The group wrote that authorities in Puntland - a semi-autonomous region
of Somalia which has a fractious relationship with Mogadishu - had said
that one reason they had passed a law banning Yemeni petroleum imports
wthe ease with which arms were smuggled in diesel containers like the
ones on the Jihan 1.
"Additional evidence indicates the involvement of an individual entity
based in Djibouti as part of a network that supplies arms and ammunition
to al-Shabaab in Somalia," it said.
The report said that al-Shabaab remained strong, even though it had been
driven out of a number of cities and towns.
"The military strength of al-Shabaab, with an approximately 5,000-strong
force, remains arguably intact, in terms of operational readiness, chain
of command, discipline, and communication capabilities," it said. "At
present, al-Shabaab remains the principal threat to peace and security
The monitoring group said it was concerned about the possible export
from Somalia of know-how in the manufacture of suicide vests and
improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to Kenya and Uganda. It said it had
analyzed a suicide vest discovered in Kenya in March, which was similar
to ones used by al-Shabaab.
This, the group said, "suggests a transfer of know-how between al-Shabaab
in Somalia and al-Shabaab members or its sympathizers operating in
Although piracy off Somalia's coast had decreased, it said some of the
demobilized pirates were providing private security services to
unlicensed fishing vessels off Somalia's coast.
"Puntland officials estimate that tens of thousands of tonnes of illegal
catch has been fished from Puntland's coastline between 2012 and 2013 by
hundreds of illegal fishing vessels," the report said.
"The vessels are predominantly Iranian and Yemeni owned and all use
Somali armed security," it said.
The Monitoring Group said it was investigating reports that illegal
fishing vessels were also being used to smuggle weapons.
While the reports were unconfirmed, the group had established "other
connections between the illegal fishing networks and networks involved
in the arms trade and connected to al-Shabaab in northeastern Somalia,"
the report said.
The Monitoring Group said Puntland officials estimated that as many as
180 illegal Iranian and 300 illegal Yemeni vessels were fishing in
Somali waters, along with a small number of Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean
and European-owned vessels. (Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by