U.S. naval forces intercepted a fishing vessel in the Gulf of Oman, Jan. 6, and discovered it smuggling 2,116 AK-47 assault rifles while transiting international waters along a maritime route from Iran to Yemen.
A U.S. Navy boarding team from patrol coastal ship USS Chinook (PC 9) initially discovered and seized the weapons with support from USS Monsoon (PC 4) and guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG 68). The intercepted vessel, which was sailing on a route historically used to traffic illicit cargo to the Houthis in Yemen, was crewed by six Yemeni nationals.
The direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of weapons to the Houthis violates U.N. Security Council Resolution 2216 and international law. The transfer of the vessel and its crew for repatriation is in progress.
“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.”
In the past two months, U.S. 5th Fleet has also intercepted two other fishing vessels in the Gulf of Oman smuggling lethal aid from Iran to Yemen.
Forces operating from expeditionary sea base USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) seized more than 50 tons of ammunition rounds, fuses and propellants for rockets, Dec. 1. Weeks earlier on Nov. 8, The Sullivans, USS Hurricane (PC 3) and U.S. Coast Guard ship USCGC John Scheuerman (WPC 1146) intercepted more than 70 tons of ammonium perchlorate, a powerful oxidizer commonly used to make rocket and missile fuel, as well as 100 tons of urea fertilizer.
The U.S. 5th Fleet operating area includes 21 countries, the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, parts of the Indian Ocean and three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, Bab al-Mandeb and Suez Canal.