The U.S. Navy seized more than 2,000 AK-47 assault rifles from a fishing vessel intercepted in the Gulf of Oman, which appeared to be en route from Iran to fuel the civil war in Yemen.
A Navy boarding team from the coastal patrol ship USS Chinook discovered 2,116 rifles on the boat and seized them with help from personnel on the USS Monsoon and USS The Sullivans, according to a Navy press release.
Six Yemeni nationals were sailing the vessel along a route commonly used to traffic illicit cargo from Iran to Yemen. Iran supports the Houthi rebel movement in Yemen’s civil war, which has lasted eight years and is considered among the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
“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.”
The Fifth Fleet is the Navy’s presence in the Middle East, and it’s intensifying efforts to break up Iranian smuggling, according to Al-Monitor.
Fifth Fleet forces also intercepted lethal aid from Iran to Yemen on two other fishing boats in the Gulf of Oman over the last two months, according to the release.
On Dec. 1, more than 50 tons of ammunition, fuses and propellants for rockets were seized by forces from the expeditionary sea base USS Lewis B. Puller. And on Nov. 8, two Navy ships and a Coast Guard ship intercepted more than 70 tons of ammonium perchlorate, which is used to make rocket and missile fuel.
These efforts have met resistance. In December, an Iranian military patrol boat came “dangerously close” to two Navy ships and shined bright lights at them in the Strait of Hormuz. Also in the Strait of Hormuz, armed Iranian speedboats harassed a pair of U.S. warships for an hour over the summer, at one point charging a U.S. ship head-on.