The US Navy announced Wednesday it seized a shipment of some 1,400 AK-47 assault rifles and more than 200,000 rounds of ammunition in the Arabian Sea earlier this week.
The Navy’s 5th Fleet said the stateless ship carrying the weapons had originated from Iran and was bound for Yemen, where Iran-backed Houthi rebels continue to fight for control of that country.
The vessel transited a route typically used to traffic weapons to Yemen, the Navy said in a statement. The boat’s five crew members claimed to be Yemeni and will be returned to that country, 5th Fleet said, after Coast Guard and Navy personnel intercepted the vessel on Monday.
The US military regularly interdicts weapons and drug shipments in the Persian Gulf region, with particular focus on arms flows to Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who ousted Yemen’s government in 2015. The US has intercepted around 8,700 trafficked weapons this year so far.
Saudi Arabia leads a Gulf military coalition against the Houthis, who US officials say have received increasing shipments of weapons from Iran.
In May, a Coast Guard vessel interdicted a shipment of Russian-made anti-tank missiles, Chinese Type 56 assault rifles, PKM machine guns, sniper rifles and RPG anti-tank rocket launchers in the Arabian Sea.
The Biden administration halted support for offensive Saudi-led operations in Yemen and has pushed for a negotiated end to the war, now in its seventh year.
Yet Houthi missiles and drones continue to fly into Saudi airspace. The vast majority, though not all, are intercepted, US officials have said.
Meanwhile, Riyadh continues its widely criticized bombing campaign in Yemen, targeting what it said were Houthi drone and missile-command and -storage sites at Sanaa’s international airport in Yemen earlier this week.
The US Navy is experimenting with unmanned vessels in the Persian Gulf region to help detect smuggling and other Iran-linked activities in Middle Eastern waters.
Source » al-monitor