US Navy seizes guns headed from Iran to Yemen
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Manama (AFP) – The US Navy seized 1,400 AK-47 rifles and ammunition from a fishing boat it said was smuggling weapons from Iran to Houthi rebels in war-torn Yemen.
The U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, or NAVCENT, said it boarded the boat on December 20 in the northern Arabian Sea, seized the arms cache and five crew members – who identified themselves as Yemenis – before scuttling the ship.
Yemen has been ravaged by civil war since 2014, pitting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels against the internationally recognized government.
“The ships of the 5th US Fleet seized approximately 1,400 AK-47 assault rifles and 226,600 rounds from a stateless fishing vessel,” a US Navy statement said on Wednesday.
“The stateless vessel was believed to have originated from Iran and had transited through international waters along a route historically used for smuggling arms illegally to the Houthis in Yemen.”
The Bahrain-based US 5th Fleet has seized around 8,700 illicit weapons this year.
The United States as well as its ally Saudi Arabia – which leads the military coalition supporting the Yemeni government against the rebels – has long accused Iran of supplying the Houthis with arms, a charge denied by Tehran.
“The direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of arms to the Houthis violates UN Security Council resolutions and US sanctions,” the US statement added.
The five crew members will be repatriated, the navy said, adding that the boat sank because it posed a “danger” to commercial shipping.
Riyadh said its 2015 intervention in Yemen was aimed at preventing an Iranian ally from seizing power at its doorstep.
In recent days, fighting in Yemen has seen Saudi-led coalition forces carry out airstrikes on the rebel-held capital Sana’a.
On Wednesday, the coalition said it targeted a Houthi military camp in Sana’a and destroyed seven warehouses of drones and weapons, according to the official Saudi news agency.
Earlier this week, it targeted Sana’a Airport, whose operations have largely ceased due to a Saudi-led blockade since August 2016, with exemptions for aid flights.
The UN estimates that the war in Yemen will have killed 377,000 people by the end of the year, from both direct and indirect impacts.
More than 80 percent of the population of around 30 million is in need of humanitarian assistance.
© 2021 AFP