US Navy Captures Ship Smuggling Iranian Weapons to Yemen

A ship carrying illicit arms believed to be from Iran was intercepted last week off the southern Arabian Peninsula by a member of a U.S.-backed naval coalition and was not registered with any country, the U.S. Navy said Wednesday.

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The description of the ship’s seizure conflicted in some instances with an earlier account provided by a separate Saudi-led coalition battling Yemen’s Shiite rebels, which claimed in a statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency that it had foiled the smuggling attempt.

The Saudi coalition alleged that Iran was using the vessel to ship arms to the rebels, charges denied by Tehran.

The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain, said a member of the Combined Maritime Forces, a longstanding multinational coalition, intercepted the vessel in international waters last Friday.

An American guided missile destroyer, the USS Forrest Sherman, arrived to assist once the weapons were found aboard the dhow, a type of vessel commonly used in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean.

A search of the ship determined that it was “stateless,” or not formally registered to any country, although it appears to have been coming from Iran, according to the U.S. Navy.

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“Based on statements from the dhow’s crew, the port of origin of the dhow and its illicit weapons cache is believed to be Iran,” the Navy said, adding that the weapons included anti-tank arms thought to be of Iranian and Russian origin.

The dhow’s crew alleged that the vessel was bound for Somalia, which sits just across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen. They were allowed to depart once the weapons were confiscated, the U.S. said.

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Most of the weapons were dumped into the sea, though some were retained for further analysis by sailors aboard the American warship.

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