U.S. Navy Seizes Massive Weapons Shipment That Was Likely Headed for Yemen

Last week the U.S. Navy seized thousands of weapons, that were likely sent by Iran to arm Houthi rebels in Yemen, from a vessel in the Arabian Sea.

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Officials for the U.S. Navy say that a cache of weapons, including assault weapons, sniper rifles, and other types of guns, were seized from a vessel in the Arabian Sea. The officials added they think that the weapons intended recipient(s) were Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

In a press release put out on Saturday, the service branch described the boat the weapons were taken from as a dhow (a traditional sailing vessel). The takedown of that thing happened on Thursday. 

After the weapons were seized, those onboard were allowed to leave. The Navy also says that the boat’s occupants were given food and water. 

“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,” said the Navy’s press arm.

“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. Other weapon components included advanced optical sights.”

An anonymous defense official who spoke to The Associated Press said that the collection of weapons looked similar to those taken from other watercrafts that were giving supplies to Houthi rebels. This would come in spite of a United Nations arms embargo. That official also said that interviews indicated the vessel originated in Iran. The Hill adds that Iran is believed to be backing the rebels with weapons as they fight their country’s Saudi Arabia-supported/internationally recognized government. 

As for specifics on the haul, the dhow was reported to be holding almost 3,000 Chinese Type 56 assault rifles, hundreds of heavy machine guns and sniper rifles, dozens of anti-tank guided missiles, and hundreds of rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

The seizures are just the latest in a string of similar operations that started up in 2016. Yemen is reported to be flooded with small arms that have gotten into the country through badly maintained ports that have deteriorated from years of conflict. 

The war began in September 2014 after Houthis seized the capital of Sana’a. Their attempt to seize the entire country was met with Saudi Arabia (plus the United Arab Emirates and some other countries) teaming with Yemen’s government in March 2015. 

The Armed Conflict Location & Event Project estimates that 130,000 people have died from the war, including 13,000 civilians whose lives have been taken in targeted attacks. 

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