US Navy says trawler carrying arms haul was bound for Yemen

The United States Navy says it has intercepted a fishing trawler smuggling more than 50 tonnes of ammunition — including more than 1 million bullet rounds, thousands of rocket fuses, and a large amount of propellant for rocket-propelled grenades — in the Gulf of Oman.

In a statement on Saturday, the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet said the “illicit cargo” was discovered on December 1 “during a flag verification boarding” and was the second major weapons seizure in a month along a maritime route from Iran to war-torn Yemen.

“The direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of weapons to the Houthis in Yemen violates UN Security Council Resolution 2216 and international law,” the US navy said in the statement.

On November 8, the fleet intercepted a fishing vessel transporting more than 70 tonnes of ammonium perchlorate, which is used in the production of rocket and missile fuel, as well as explosives, and 100 tonnes of urea fertiliser, which is used in agriculture but can also be used in explosives.

US Vice Admiral Brad Cooper accused Iran of being behind the latest shipment.

“This significant interdiction clearly shows that Iran’s unlawful transfer of lethal aid and destabilising behaviour continues,” he said in the statement.

The US and Saudi Arabia accuse Iran of arming Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who seized the country’s capital Sanaa in 2014.

Tehran has denied the charge; Iran has previously said it supports the Houthis politically but denies sending the group weapons.

The war in Yemen, which has pitted the Houthis against a Saudi-led coalition, has killed hundreds of thousands and pushed the impoverished nation to the brink of famine.

A United Nations-brokered ceasefire that took effect in April brought a sharp reduction in hostilities. The truce expired in October, though fighting largely remains on hold.

There was no immediate comment from Yemen’s Houthis or the Iranian government.

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