The U.S. Navy stopped a fishing boat attempting to smuggle over 2,000 AK-47s from Iran to Yemen, according to the Navy Forces Central Command.
The Friday incident occurred in the international waters of the Gulf of Oman when the patrol coastal ship USS Chinook boarded and seized the weapons with the assistance of other naval vessels.
“This shipment is part of a continued pattern of destabilizing activity from Iran,” said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces.
“These threats have our attention. We remain vigilant in detecting any maritime activity that impedes freedom of navigation or compromises regional security,” he added.
The transfer of weapons to Houthi rebels in Yemen violates U.N. Security Council Resolution 2216 and international law, the Navy reported. The transfer of the vessel and six crew members is in progress.
The apprehension marks the third recent fishing vessel intercepted attempting to provide lethal aid from Iran to Yemen through the Gulf of Oman, according to the Navy.
On December 1, naval forces seized more than 50 tons of ammunition rounds, fuses, and propellants for rockets. On November 8, naval forces and a U.S. Coast Guard vessel stopped a boat carrying over 70 tons of ammonium perchlorate, a substance the Navy called “a powerful oxidizer commonly used to make rocket and missile fuel,” seized alongside 100 tons of urea fertilizer.
The Houthis are a rebel group fighting a long-time civil war against Yemen’s recognized government. It has also been called a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, as the Saudis support the national government.
Iran has long supported the Houthis, a Zaydi Shiite movement in conflict with Yemen’s government since 2004. The group began in the 1990s in north Yemen as a reaction to Saudi financial influence. The group seized Yemen’s capital Sanaa in 2014 and parts of northern Yemen in 2016.
Saudi Arabia has opposed the group, with Houthi forces initiating attacks on Saudi soil on numerous occasions. The tensions are also religiously motivated, as the Houthis and Iran’s government are Shiite Muslims in conflict with Saudi Arabia’s Sunni Muslim majority.
A six-month ceasefire in the Yemen war concluded in October 2022. More than 150,000 people have been killed in the longtime conflict, including 14,500 civilians.
Last month, the European Union challenged the Houthis to end its armed conflict and work with the U.N. to resolve the crisis.
“The EU urges the Houthis to abandon maximalist positions and engage constructively with the UNSE Grundberg,” the statement said. “The Council also stresses the utmost importance of reinstating and further extending the truce.”
The EU “commends the constructive approach of the Yemeni government during the truce and ongoing efforts by regional actors, notably by Saudi Arabia and also Oman, on the extension of the truce,” the statement added.