US Navy says it seized arms shipment containing thousands of assault weapons, machine guns and sniper rifles hidden aboard ship in Arabian Sea
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The US Navy announced on Sunday that it had seized a weapons shipment of thousands of assault weapons, machine guns and sniper rifles hidden aboard a ship in the Sea of Oman, apparently bound for Yemen to support the country’s Houthi rebels.
The seizure, one of many amid the years-long war in Yemen, comes as the United States and others seek to end a conflict that has spawned one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. world. The arms shipment, described as significant, shows that the war may still have a long way to go.
The guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey discovered the weapons aboard what the Navy described as a stateless dhow, a traditional Middle Eastern sailboat, in an operation that began Thursday in the northern part of the D ‘Oman off Oman and Pakistan. The sailors boarded the ship and found the weapons, most of them wrapped in green plastic, below deck.
Once laid out on the Monterey Bridge, the scale of discovery became clear. Sailors found nearly 3,000 Chinese Type 56 assault rifles, a variant of the Kalashnikov. They recovered hundreds of other heavy machine guns and sniper rifles, as well as dozens of advanced Russian-made anti-tank guided missiles. The expeditions also included several hundred rocket-propelled grenade launchers and optical weapon sights.
The Navy’s 5th Fleet, based in the Middle East, has not identified the origin of the weapons or their destination. However, a US defense official said the weapons resembled those in other banned shipments to the Houthis.
Based on interviews with the crew and the material investigated on board, the sailors determined the ship was from Iran, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation. In progress.
“Once all the illegal cargoes were removed, the dhow was assessed for seaworthiness, and after questioning, its crew were given food and water before being released,” the 5th Fleet said in a statement.
The seizure is only the latest in the Arabian Sea or the Gulf of Aden involving weapons likely linked to Yemen. The seizures began in 2016 and continued intermittently throughout the war, which saw the Houthis fire ballistic missiles and use drones later linked to Iran. Yemen is rife with small arms that have been smuggled into poorly controlled ports during years of conflict.
This recent seizure appears to be one of the most significant. Tim Michetti, an investigative researcher who studies the illicit arms trade, also said the shipment had similarities to the others.
“The unique mix of material recovered by the USS Monterey appears to be consistent with material from previous bans, which were tied to Iran,” he said.
The war in Yemen began in September 2014, when the Houthis captured Sana’a and began a march south in an attempt to take over the entire country. Saudi Arabia, along with the UAE and other countries, went to war alongside Yemen’s internationally recognized government in March 2015. Iran backed the Houthis, who are harassing Saudi Arabia with gunfire. missiles and drone attacks.
The war killed some 130,000 people, including more than 13,000 civilians killed in targeted attacks, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event project.
The war saw atrocities on all sides. Saudi airstrikes using American-made bombs have killed schoolchildren and civilians. The UAE paid local al-Qaida fighters to avoid fighting and controlled prisons where torture and sexual abuse were rampant. The Houthis employ child soldiers and lay mines indiscriminately.
Since 2015, the UN Security Council has imposed an arms embargo on the Houthis. Despite this, UN experts warn that “a growing body of evidence suggests that individuals or entities in the Islamic Republic of Iran are providing significant volumes of weapons and components to the Houthis.”
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