DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The U.S. Navy said Tuesday it found 70 tons of missile fuel components in fertilizer bags on a ship bound for Yemen from Iran, the country’s years-long war The first such seizure. – The fire there has burst.
The navy said the amount of ammonium perchlorate found could fuel more than a dozen intermediate-range ballistic missiles, the same weapon Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels use to target forces aligned with the country’s internationally recognized government and The Saudi-led coalition backs them.
The apparent rearmament effort comes as Iran threatens Saudi Arabia, the United States and others during months-long protests calling for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic’s theocracyAt least 344 people have been killed and 15,820 arrested within the confines of a crackdown on dissidents, which Tehran blamed on foreign powers — not its own frustrated people — for instigating the protests.
The Houthis and Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not respond to requests for comment.
“This type of transport and large quantities of explosive material is a serious problem because it destabilizes,” Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins, a spokesman for the Navy’s Fifth Fleet in the Middle East, told The Associated Press. “Illegal arms shipments from Iran to Yemen lead to instability and violence.”
The U.S. Coast Guard ship USCGC John Scheuerman and guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans intercepted a traditional wooden sailboat known as a dhow in the Gulf of Oman on Nov. 11. 8, the Navy said. During a week-long search, sailors found bags of ammonium perchlorate in what initially appeared to be 100 tonnes of urea.
Urea is a fertilizer and can also be used to make explosives.
The dhow was so weighed down by the cargo that it posed a threat to shipping around the Gulf of Oman, which stretches from the narrow Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean. Because of the danger, the Navy eventually sank the ship, which still had most of the material on board, Hawkins said.
On Tuesday, the Sullivans handed over four Yemeni sailors to the country’s internationally recognized government.
Asked how the Navy knew to stop the ship, Hawkins said only that the Navy knew through “multiple means” that the ship was carrying fuel and that it was coming from Iran and was bound for Yemen. He declined to elaborate.
“Given that this route is often used to smuggle illicit weapons and drugs from Iran into Yemen, it really tells you what you need to know,” Hawkins said. “It’s clearly not for the good.”
The Houthis seized Yemen’s capital Sana’a in September 2014 and forced the internationally recognized government into exile. In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition with U.S. arms and intelligence joined the war on the side of Yemen’s government-in-exile.Years of inconclusive fighting has pushed the Arab world’s poorest country to the brink of famine.
Since 2014, the UN arms embargo has prohibited arms transfers to the Houthis.Still, Iran has long shipped rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, missiles and other weapons to the Houthis via dhowsAlthough Iran denies supplying weapons to the Houthis, independent experts, Western and UN experts have traced parts seized from ships seized abroad to Iran.
Six-month ceasefire in Yemen war, longest in conflict, due in October despite diplomatic efforts to update it. This has led to fears that the war could escalate again. More than 150,000 people have been killed in fighting in Yemen, including more than 14,500 civilians.
Since the ceasefire ended, there have been sporadic attacks. A Houthi drone attacked a Greek cargo ship near the port city of Mukalla in late OctoberNo damage to the boat.
Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.