May 10, 2021
The US Navy announced Sunday it seized an arms shipment of thousands of assault weapons, machine guns and sniper rifles hidden aboard a ship in the Arabian Sea, apparently bound for Yemen to support the Houthi militias.
An American defense official told The Associated Press that the Navy’s initial investigation found the vessel came from Iran, again tying the country to arming the Houthis despite a United Nations arms embargo.
The guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey discovered the weapons aboard what the Navy described as a stateless dhow in an operation that began Thursday in the northern reaches of the Arabian Sea. Sailors boarded the vessel and found the weapons, most wrapped in green plastic, below deck.
When laid out on the deck of the Monterey, the scale of the find came into focus. 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 shipments also included several hundred rocket-propelled grenade launchers and optical sights for weapons.
An American defense official said the weapons resembled those of other shipments interdicted bounded for the Houthis.
Based on interviews with the crew and material investigated on board, the sailors determined the vessel came from Iran, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.
“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,” the Navy’s 5th Fleet said in a statement.