US Navy Intercepts Vessel Smuggling Assault Rifles From Iran To Yemen

The US Navy reportedly seized more than 2,100 assault rifles from a vessel in the Gulf of Oman it believes came from Iran and were bound for Yemen’s Houthi militia, a Navy spokesman informed on Tuesday. It was the most recent weapons-capture event allegedly heading to the poorest country of the Arab world.

The seizure occurred last Friday after a specialized team from the USS Chinook, a Cyclone-class coastal patrol boat, reportedly boarded a traditional wooden sailing vessel popularly called a dhow. They discovered Kalashnikov-style rifles were wrapped in green tarps on the vessel, explained Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins is a spokesman for the Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet.

The Chinook, with the patrol boat dubbed USS Monsoon and the guided-missile destroyer named USS The Sullivans, took complete possession of weapons. They closely resembled other assault rifles that were earlier seized by the Navy, suspected to be from Iran and heading to Yemen.

Assault Rifles
Credits: United States Navy

The Yemeni crew members, Hawkins added, will be repatriated to a government-controlled part of Yemen. Since 2014, A UN arms embargo has been prohibiting weapons transfers to the Houthis when the civil war in Yemen erupted.

Iran has long been denying empowering the Houthis even as it has been transferring rifles, missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, and other weaponry via sea channels to the Yemeni militia. Independent specialists, UN experts, and Western nations have traced the components seized onboard other detained vessels back to Iran.

Iran’s mission to the UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

The Houthis ended up seizing Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in 2014 (September) and compelled the internationally recognized government to be in exile. Years of inconclusive fighting have forced the Arab world’s poorest country to almost famine.

A six-month ceasefire in Yemen’s war, the longest conflict, expired in October despite diplomatic efforts in favour of renewing it. That resulted in fears that the fighting could escalate again. Over 150,000 individuals have lost their lives in Yemen during the conflict, including over 14,500 civilians.

There have been sporadic attacks since the ceasefire ceased, even though international negotiators have been trying to devise a political solution to this war.

In November 2022, the Navy discovered 70 tons of a missile fuel component hidden among fertilizer bags, allegedly from Iran, and was sailing to Yemen.

References: Alarabiya News, Business Insider

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