The US Naval Forces Central Command has announced that its vessels stationed in the Gulf of Oman recently intercepted a fishing vessel attempting to smuggle over 2,000 AK-47 rifles from Iran to Yemen. The seizure is the third such one to occur in just over two months, as Iran continues to back the Houthis in the ongoing Yemeni Civil War.
The discovery was made on January 6, 2023 by the crew aboard the USS Chinook (PC-9). With the aid of the USS The Sullivans (DDG-68) and Monsoon (PC-4), they were able to board the vessel and seize a total of 2,116 AK-47s. The six Yemeni nationals aboard the boat are currently awaiting repatriation.
The route through the Gulf of Oman is heavily traveled by traffickers looking to transport illicit weapons and supplies from Iran to the Houthis in Yemen. Such activity is in direct violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which imposed “sanctions on individuals undermining the stability of Yemen, calling all Yemeni parties, in particular the Houthis, to end violence and refrain from further unilateral actions that threatened the political transition.”
Ongoing since 2014, the Yemeni Civil War has seen the internationally-recognized Yemeni government, currently led by Rashad al-Alimi, continually at odds with Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, who claim to be the rightful political leaders of the country.
On Jan. 6, U.S. Central Command forces intercepted a stateless dhow in the Gulf of Oman smuggling more than 2,000 AK-47 assault rifles while transiting international waters from Iran to Yemenhttps://t.co/Soc40vk7x2 pic.twitter.com/LC3f0P5yK1
— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) January 10, 2023
“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 (NAVCENT), US 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, in a statement. “These threats have our attention. We remain vigilant in detecting any maritime activity that impedes freedom of navigation or compromises regional security.”
In a separate statement shared to Twitter, Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla added, “The illegal flow of weapons from Iran through international waterways has a destabilizing effect on the region. We are committed to the security and stability of the region and the enforcement of international law.
“Alongside our partner forces, CENTCOM will deter and interdict this kind of lethal material into the region whether it comes by air, land, or sea,” he concluded.
According the press release published by NAVCENT, this most recent incident is the third to occur in just over two months. In November 2021, the USS Hurricane (PC-3), The Sullivans and the USCGC John Scheuerman (WPF-1146) intercepted a shipment of over 70 tons of ammonium perchlorate, a compound used to make missile and rocket fuel, as well as 100 tons of urea fertilizer.
Just under a month later, the USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB-3) seized over 50 tons of ammunition rounds, fuses and propellants for rockets, totalling 25,000 rounds of 12.7 mm ammunition, one million rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition, over 2,100 kg of propellant and nearly 7,000 proximity fuses.