Thousands of AK-47 assault rifles are displayed on the flight deck of guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans on Saturday during an inventory process. U.S. naval forces seized the 2,116 assault rifles from a fishing vessel along a maritime route in the Gulf of Oman between Iran and Yemen. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy
Jan. 10 (UPI) — The U.S. Navy says it seized more than 2,000 assault rifles smuggled aboard a fishing vessel in the Gulf of Oman last week.
It is the third time in the past two months in which the Navy has confiscated lethal weapons on the international maritime route between Iran and Yemen.
The 2,116 AK-47 assault rifles were discovered Friday on a vessel crewed by six Yemeni nationals. The vessel was on a route that has been known to traffic illicit cargo to the Houthis in Yemen, the Navy announced Tuesday.
A naval boarding team on the USS Chinook discovered and seized the weapons, officials said, adding they had help from the patrol ship USS Monsoon and the guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans.
“This shipment is part of a continued pattern of destabilizing activity from Iran,” Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, said 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,” Cooper said.
The U.S. 5th Fleet operates in an area that includes 21 countries in addition to the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, and parts of the Indian Ocean. It also patrols three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, Bab el-Mandeb and the Suez Canal.
The supply, sale or transfer of weapons to the Houthis is a violation of international law, as well as U.N. Security Council Resolution 2216. The transfer of the vessel and its crew for repatriation is in progress, the Navy said.
In the past two months, U.S. 5th Fleet has intercepted two other fishing vessels in the Gulf of Oman for smuggling weapons from Iran to Yemen.
On Nov. 8, the Navy confiscated 100 tons of urea fertilizer and more than 70 tons of ammonium perchlorate, a powerful oxidizer used to make rocket and missile fuel. The vessel was deemed to be a risk and was sunk by U.S. forces. The four crew members were transferred to the Yemen Coast Guard for repatriation.
Three weeks later, on Dec. 1, naval forces seized more than 50 tons of ammunition rounds, fuses and propellants for rockets.