French naval forces have seized thousands of assault rifles and other arms in the Gulf of Oman originating in Iran, in the latest Iranian arms shipment to be intercepted on its way to Tehran's Houthi allies in Yemen.
The seizure, which took place on 15 January, was described by the United States' Central Command (CENTCOM) in a statement and Twitter post as occurring "along routes historically used to traffic weapons unlawfully from Iran to Yemen."
U.S. Central Command Supports Partner Forces in Major Iranian Weapons Seizurehttps://t.co/7mBR0xpFet pic.twitter.com/Ix75ol4vZ6
— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) February 1, 2023
Although CENTCOM did not specify who carried out the seizure, referring to them only as "Partner Forces", the Wall Street Journal – which first reported it – identified the responsible actors as elite French special forces. The Associated Press also cited an anonymous regional official as confirming that the French carried it out.
Judging from reports analysing the pictures CENTCOM released, the shipment included Chinese-made Type 56 rifles, Russian-made Molot AKS20Us and PKM-pattern machine guns, 23 container-launched anti-tank missiles, as well as over 3,000 rifles and 578,000 rounds of ammunition – all of which have appeared in other seizures of arms shipments from Iran to Yemen.
Tehran's arming of the Houthi rebels in the war-torn country has been ongoing for years since they rose up and took the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, in 2014, followed by the Saudi-led coalition's intervention in the country in support of the internationally-recognised government the next year. Those shipments directly defy the United Nations' resolution banning arms transfers to the Houthis.
Such seizures are regularly conducted by US naval forces, with the French – who have a naval base in Abu Dhabi – rarely carrying them out.
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