The US Navy confiscated an ample supply of assault rifles and ammunition smuggled by an Iranian fishing ship. The US assumes the shipment of Iranian arms was heading towards the war-ravaged country of Yemen.
On Monday, patrol ships found the weapons in the northern reaches of the Arabian Sea off Oman and Pakistan aboard a stateless fishing vessel. Sailors boarded the boat and found five Yemeni crew members, 1,400 Kalashnikov-style rifles, and 226,600 rounds of ammunition.
For years, western nations have frequently accused Iran of smuggling illicit weapons and technology into Yemen. They accuse them of fueling the civil war and enabling Houthi forces to fire missiles and drones into Saudi Arabia.
A statement from the 5th Fleet blamed Iran for sending the weapons.
“The direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of weapons to the Houthis violates UN Security Council Resolutions and US sanctions,” the statement said.
BEFORE SINKING THE FISHING VESSEL, the US Navy transferred the confiscated weapons to the destroyer USS O’Kane because of the “hazard” to commercial shipping. The Yemeni crew was sent back to their country.
Seizures of arms sent for Yemen’s war began in 2016. These weapons consist of mostly Kalashnikov rifles, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
The 5th Fleet said across the 2.5 million-square-mile area it patrols, they have confiscated about 8,700 illicit weapons in 2021.
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