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US 'intercepted four Iranian arms shipments' en route Yemen

The US and allies have long accused Iran of supplying weapons to the Houthis [AFP]

Date of publication: 27 October, 2016

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A US admiral has said that at least four Iranian weapon shipments heading for rebels in Yemen have been intercepted by warships since April 2015.
Four weapon shipments heading to war-torn Yemen from Iran were intercepted by US warships and allied nations since April 2015, a US admiral said on Thursday.

The shipments contained thousands of AK-47 assault rifles, anti-tank missiles, sniper rifles and "other pieces of other equipment, higher-end weapons systems," US Vice Admiral Kevin Donegan said.

"Either US ships or coalition ships... intercepted four weapons shipments from Iran to Yemen," he said.

Naval officials were able to determine the destination of the boats' by analysing GPS settings and interviewing the crew.

One of the shipments had been validated by the United Nations as being an illegal weapons shipment, said Donegal.

"We know they came from Iran and we know the destination," he reiterated to reporters at an undisclosed military base in Southwest Asia.

His comments come after the US military's Central Command chief General Joseph Votel accused Iran of playing a role in the suspected Houthi missile attacks against US warships in the Red Sea this month.

"We believe that Iran is connected to this in some way," Donegan said.

Given the heavy volume of traffic around the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf, the three-star admiral said "plenty" of other shipments would have gone through to Yemen.

The arms seizures came after Iran tried to send a convoy of seven ships, guarded by two Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps vessels, to Yemen in April 2015.

Donegan said these were filled with coastal-defence cruise missiles, explosives and other weapons.

Yemen has been rocked by conflict since the Houthis overran the capital Sanaa and other large parts of the country in 2014, prompting military intervention by a Saudi-led coalition in March last year in support of the internationally recognised government.

The United States and Saudi Arabia have accused Iran of arming Yemen’s Houthi rebels, and while Tehran denies the charges, the Saudi-led coalition battling the insurgents has since enforced maritime and air controls over the Arabian Peninsula country.

The rebels are believed to be behind this month's attacks in which surface-to-surface missiles were fired at the USS Mason on at least two occasions.

In response, US cruise missiles struck Houthi radar sites believed to have been used to target the weapons.

The Mason and two other warships were likely targeted in a third missile attack on October 15, but officials have not conclusively confirmed what the threat was or where it was coming from.

Iran denied reports from Washington, describing the comments as "vague and contradictory remarks by American officials" that "are false, paranoid and inappropriate," foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told the official IRNA news agency.

Yemen's conflict has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced at least three million since the Saudi-led coalition launched military operations, according to the United Nations.

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