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US Navy Seizes Fishing Vessel Using Iranian Smuggling Route in Gulf of Oman

US Navy Seizes Fishing Vessel Using Iranian Smuggling Route in Gulf of Oman

Monday, 24 January, 2022 - 07:00
Handover of the ship in the Gulf of Oman to the Yemeni Coast Guard on Jan. 21. (US Navy)

The US Navy interdicted a fishing vessel carrying 40 tons of explosive material in the Gulf of Oman last week. The vessel was traveling a route popularly used by Iran to smuggle weapons to Houthi militias in Yemen. Last year, the US Navy intercepted several ships trafficking thousands of weapons to Yemen.

Guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) and patrol coastal ship USS Chinook (PC 9) interdicted on Tuesday the vessel, which was not sailing under any flag as it was traveling from Iran in international waters along a route historically used to smuggle weapons to the Houthis in Yemen, the US 5th Fleet announced on Sunday.

US forces discovered 40 tons of urea fertilizer, a compound that can be used for agricultural applications but can also be used to manufacture explosives, on the vessel.

The same exact vessel was caught in February 2021 carrying illicit weapons off the coast of Somalia. The weapons included thousands of AK-47 assault rifles, light machine guns, heavy sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and crew-served weapons.

The announcement comes as tensions escalate in the region. Houthis had fired drones and missiles against Abu Dhabi, killing three people and prompting an immediate response from the Saudi-led Arab coalition.

The coalition targeted Houthi positions and leaders in the capital Sanaa and other Yemeni areas, including the Hodeidah province.

Last May, the US Navy seized a stateless ship crossing the Arabian Sea and carrying Russian anti-tank missiles, thousands of Chinese-made Type 56 assault rifles, and hundreds of Russian PKM automatic rifles.

In December, the US 5th Fleet stopped an unflagged fishing vessel coming from Iran, carrying 1,400 AK-47 rifles. The ship was passing through a route used to smuggle illegal weapons to the Houthis.

US Navy officials stress that direct or indirect supply, sale, or transfer of weapons to the Houthis would violate United Nations Security Council resolutions and US sanctions.

“We have enhanced our presence and vigilance across regional waters,” said the 5th fleet’s Vice Adm. Brad Cooper.

“This reflects our continued commitment to confront destabilizing activities that disrupt the rules-based international order which underlies maritime security in the Middle East,” he added.

In other news, Britain’s Royal Navy seized a ton of drugs worth an estimated $20 million from a small vessel in the Gulf of Oman.

In a 10-hour operation, a specialist team from HMS Montrose intercepted a ship loaded with 663kg of heroin, 87kg of methamphetamine and 291kg of hashish and marijuana, the joint maritime task force said in a statement.

It did not elaborate on where the drugs came from, who manufactured them or their ultimate destination. But Iran over the last decade has seen an explosion in the use of methamphetamine, known locally as “shisheh” or “glass” in Farsi, which has bled into neighboring countries.

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