The U.S. Navy has announced that it seized a ship carrying fertilizer used to make explosives as it traveled from Iran along a route previously used to smuggle weapons to Yemen’s Huthi rebels.
The navy said on January 23 it boarded and searched the ship, which last year was caught carrying thousands of weapons and handed to Yemen’s coast guard, after intercepting it in international waters in the Gulf of Oman on January 18.
A U.S. guided-missile destroyer and patrol ship “interdicted the stateless vessel transiting from Iran…along a route historically used to traffic weapons to the Huthis in Yemen,” the Bahrain-based U.S. 5th Fleet said.
The same “stateless fishing vessel” was found to be carrying thousands of AK47 assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and other weapons when it was stopped in February 2021, the U.S. Navy said.
The seizure comes at a time of high tensions in the region after a deadly drone-and-missile attack on Abu Dhabi claimed by the Iranian-backed Huthis prompted the Saudi-led coalition to launch air strikes on Yemen this week.
Saudi Arabia and the United States have long accused Iran of supplying military hardware to the Huthis, including parts for drones and missiles. Tehran denies charges it gives financial and military aid to the group.
The coalition acknowledged strikes on Sanaa and Hodeida that killed at least 17, including children, and triggered an Internet blackout across the impoverished country.
The military coalition was also accused by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) of having carried out air strikes on a prison facility in the northern city of Saada, which killed at least 70 and wounded more than 100 others. The coalition has refused to acknowledge the deadly attack on the Huthi-held Saada.
“This is the latest in a long line of unjustifiable air strikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition on places like schools, hospitals, markets, wedding parties and prisons,” Ahmed Mahat, the MSF head of mission in Yemen, said.
The Saudi-led coalition has pummeled the Arab world’s poorest country with more than 23,000 air strikes since it intervened in 2015, killing at least 18,000 Yemeni civilians, UN experts said last year.