The US Navy has claimed to have seized over 2,100 AK-47 assault rifles on a fishing vessel in the Gulf of Oman, which is thought to have come from Iran and was bound for Yemen’s Houthi movement.
An announcement was made yesterday of the discovery made on Friday, in which the ship was found to be sailing on a route known for the traffic of illicit cargo to the Houthis. The vessel was reportedly crewed by six Yemeni nationals.
According to the Navy “the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of weapons to the Houthis violates UN Security Council Resolution 2216 and international law.” The US is currently in the process of repatriating the vessel and its crew.
“This shipment is part of a continued pattern of destabilizing activity from Iran,” said Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, US 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces.
“These threats have our attention. We remain vigilant in detecting any maritime activity that impedes freedom of navigation or compromises regional security.”
This is the third fishing ship in the past two months intercepted by the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet. On 8 November the Navy intercepted more than 70 tonnes of ammonium perchlorate, an oxidizer commonly used to make rocket and missile fuel, as well as 100 tonnes of urea fertiliser. On 1 December over 50 tonnes of ammunition rounds, fuses and propellants for rockets were seized.
Iran has long been accused of providing support to the Sanaa-based de-facto government in Yemen, including the provision of weapons and training. However, the extent of Tehran’s support for the Houthis is a matter of debate. Some experts believe that the extent of Iran’s support may be limited, while others argue the Houthis are an Iranian proxy. Although the Houthi movement itself has denied receiving direct support from Iran, it doesn’t deny the ideological affinities shared with the Islamic Republic.