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This week the US Navy announced that it seized some 1,400 AK-47 assault rifles and 226,600 rounds of ammunition from a “stateless” fishing vessel after it was intercepted in the North Arabian Sea based on suspicious activity, which led to a “flag verification boarding”. 

The illicit weapons and ammunition were then transferred to the guided-missile destroyer USS O’Kane. The five passengers were reportedly Yemeni nationals. Subsequent reports suggested it may have been an Iranian smuggling operation into war-torn Yemen, where Tehran-backed Shia Houthi rebels have for a half-decade been battling the Saudi-UAE coalition which has also long enjoyed the support of the Pentagon.

US Navy releases photo of stateless fishing vessel, right, being interdicted by USS vessels while transiting international waters in the North Arabian Sea on Dec. 20, 2021; via AP

The Associated Press on Thursday described that the large cache of weapons were being “smuggled by a fishing ship from Iran likely bound for war-ravaged Yemen.”

This after the Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet issued an unusually blunt statement that pointed to finger directly at the Iranians, given the vessel sailing along a route “historically used to traffic weapons unlawfully to the Houthis in Yemen,” according to the US military statement.

“The direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of weapons to the Houthis violates U.N. Security Council Resolutions and US sanctions,” the 5th Fleet added.

Once the cargo and crew were removed, with the Yemeni nationals reportedly transported back to their home country, the vessel was declared a potential hazard to commercial shipping in the area and was sunk. 

Meanwhile, despite Biden White House promises to try to end the war in Yemen, which the UN has over the past two years dubbed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, given the mass civilian death and starvation amid the relentless Saudi air war, fighting has ramped up over the past week. 

In particular the Saudis stand charged with deliberate airstrikes on Yemen’s main international airport in the capital of Sanaa, resulting in extensive damage. However, Riyadh claims that it was a legitimate target that was being used by Houthis to stage and launch for cross-border attacks.

In the past days there’ve been widespread reports that the Saudis ramped up their airstrikes across various parts of Yemen. Yet generally US media has been silent on the continuing air war.


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