US Navy Seizes Thousands Of Assault Weapons And Sniper Rifles From Sailing Boat
The US Navy says it has seized thousands of weapons from a stateless ship believed to be heading to Yemen.
The cache of weapons was discovered during what the Navy’s Fifth Fleet described as a ‘routine boarding’ of a traditional ‘dhow’ sailing boat last week, during which they recovered 3,000 Chinese Kalashnikov-style assault rifles, as well as machine guns, sniper rifles and Russian-made rocket propelled grenade launchers.
The boat was intercepted by the USS Monterey on May 6 in international waters in the northern Arabian sea and searched in a two-day operation, with most of the weapons found hidden below deck in plastic wrapping.
In a statement, the Navy said:
The cache of weapons included dozens of advanced Russian-made anti-tank guided missiles, thousands of Chinese Type 56 assault rifles, and hundreds of PKM machine guns, sniper rifles and rocket-propelled grenades launchers,
After all illicit cargo was removed, the dhow was assessed for seaworthiness, and after questioning, its crew was provided food and water before being released.
The US Navy did not confirm the origin or destination of the ship in its statement, however a defense department source told AP News an initial investigation pointed toward the ship having come from Iran.
Officials say the seizure is the largest they’ve made in the region in recent years. Since 2016 several smaller shipments have been intercepted while bound for Yemen as part of efforts to arm Houthi rebels in the country.
Tehran denies sending illegal arms to the country, which has been fighting a devastating civil war since 2014, however several attacks launched by the Houthis have involved weapons linked to Iran – the rebels’ main ally. Iran has previously been accused of supplying ‘significant volumes of weapons and components to the Houthis’ in violation of an arms embargo established by the UN security council in 2015.
‘The unique blend of materiel recovered by the USS Monterey appears to be consistent with the materiel from previous interdictions, which have been linked to Iran,’ investigative researcher Tim Minchetti told AP News.
According to the UN, more than 233,000 people have died since the war in Yemen began, with tens of thousands of civilians killed in direct attacks. The war and subsequent blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia with support from the UK, US and France in 2015 has caused widespread starvation in the region, with the UN warning in 2018 that the country could be suffering ‘the worst famine in the world in 100 years.’
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