MANAMA: The US Navy has seized 1,400 AK-47 rifles and ammunition from a fishing boat it claimed was smuggling weapons from Iran to Huthi rebels in war-torn Yemen. US Naval Forces Central Command, or NAVCENT, said it boarded the boat on December 20 in the North Arabian Sea, seized the weapons cache and five crew members — who identified themselves as Yemeni — before scuttling the vessel.
Yemen has been wracked by civil war since 2014, pitting Iran-backed Huthi rebels against the internationally-recognised government. “US 5th Fleet ships seized approximately 1,400 AK-47 assault rifles and 226,600 rounds of ammunition from a stateless fishing vessel,” a US navy statement Wednesday read.
“The stateless vessel was assessed to have originated in Iran and transited international waters along a route historically used to traffic weapons unlawfully to the Huthis in Yemen.” The Bahrain-based US 5th Fleet has seized approximately 8,700 illicit weapons this year.
The United States as well as ally Saudi Arabia — which is leading the military coalition backing the Yemeni government against the rebels — have long accused Iran of supplying the Huthis with weapons, a charge Tehran denies.
“The direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of weapons to the Huthis violates UN Security Council Resolutions and US sanctions,” the US statement added. The five crew members will be repatriated, the navy said, adding that the boat was sunk because it was a “hazard” for commercial shipping.