Thousands of AK-47 assault rifles sit on the flight deck of the guided-missile destroyer The Sullivans on Jan. 7, 2023. US officials said their sailors seized 2,116 AK-47 assault rifles from a fishing vessel transiting from Iran to Yemen in the Gulf of Oman. US Navy photo.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels suffered another setback at sea after a US Navy boarding party seized a shipment of arms bound from Iran.
On Friday, Jan. 6, sailors from the coastal patrol ship Chinook seized a fishing boat smuggling 2,116 AK-47 assault rifles in international waters along a sea lane in the Gulf of Oman from Iran to Yemen, according to the US 5th Fleet in Bahrain.
They were aided by sister gunboat Monsoon and the guided-missile destroyer The Sullivans. Officials said six captured Yemeni mariners and their vessel will be repatriated, but declined to give a timeline on the hand off.
“The assault rifles are currently in the US Navy's possession pending final determination and execution of ultimate disposition,” said 5th Fleet spokesperson Timothy Hawkins.
A boarding team from the patrol coastal ship Chinook seized a fishing vessel in ithe Gulf of Oman on Jan. 6, 2023, confiscating 2,116 AK-47 assault rifles. US Navy photo.
The UN Security Council bars the supply of weapons to Houthis, who are fighting a civil war against Yemeni government forces backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“This shipment is part of a continued pattern of destabilizing activity from Iran,” said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of US Naval Forces Central Command and the US 5th Fleet, in a prepared statement emailed to Coffee or Die Magazine. “These threats have our attention. We remain vigilant in detecting any maritime activity that impedes freedom of navigation or compromises regional security.”
It’s not the first Iranian shipment of contraband materiel seized by US-led forces in Middle Eastern waters.
On Dec. 1, sailors from the expeditionary sea base Lewis B. Puller boarded an unflagged fishing trawler sailing the Gulf of Oman and discovered more than 1 million rounds of 7.62mm ammo; 25,000 rounds of 12.7mm ammo; nearly 7,000 proximity fuzes for rockets; and more than 2,100 kilograms of propellant for rocket-propelled grenades, officials said.
Thousands of AK-47 assault rifles sit on the flight deck of the guided-missile destroyer The Sullivans on Jan. 7, 2023. US officials said sailors seized 2,116 AK-47 assault rifles from a fishing vessel transiting along a Gulf of Oman maritime route from Iran to Yemen. US Navy photo.
And on Nov. 8, The Sullivans and the US Coast Guard cutter John Scheuerman seized 70 tons of ammonium perchlorate and 100 tons of urea fertilizer, a compound with dual uses for agriculture and, in its nitrate form, explosives.
The warships sank the vessel with the chemical compounds on board.
Iranian state media have not addressed the latest allegations tying Tehran to illicit arms shipments to Houthi separatists.
The official Houthi press office also hasn’t discussed Friday’s seizure of the fishing boat, but on Monday released a statement decrying the ongoing blockade of Yemen and accompanying economic sanctions against the rebels as “siege, starvation and suffocation” that are tantamount to war crimes.
Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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