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US Navy seizes shipment of arms in Gulf of Aden

The stateless dhow was carrying more than 1,000 AK-47 rifles [Getty]

Date of publication: 31 August, 2018

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More than 1,000 AK-47 rifles were among a cache of arms seized by the US Navy off the coast of Yemen.

Hundreds of small arms were seized by the US Navy in the Gulf of Aden, a US defence official confirmed in a press release on Thursday.

The illicit shipment of arms was intercepted in international waters off the Yemeni coast, a statement by the US Navy said.

The stateless dhow was carrying “a cache of over 1,000 AK-47 aromatic rifles,” the statement said, noting the “original source of the weapons has not yet been identified.”

Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has been leading a military campaign to push back Houthi rebels who overran the capital and other major cities, in an attempt to restore the internationally recognised government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to power.

The conflict has left more than 10,000 people dead in Yemen, which the United Nations considers the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Last month, a UN panel of experts found Yemen's Houthi rebels are still arming themselves with ballistic missiles and drones that "show characteristics similar" to Iranian-made weapons.

In a confidential report to the Security Council, a copy of which was seen by AFP, the panel said it "continues to believe" that short-range ballistic missiles and other weaponry were transferred from Iran to Yemen after an arms embargo was imposed in 2015.

Iran has repeatedly denied that it is arming the Houthis in Yemen, but the United States and Saudi Arabia have accused Tehran of providing military support to the rebels.

Recent inspections of weaponry including missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) used by the Houthis "show characteristics similar to weapons systems known to be produced in the Islamic Republic of Iran," said the 125-page report. 

During recent visits to Saudi Arabia, the panel was able to inspect debris from 10 missiles and found markings that suggest an Iranian origin, said the report spanning January to July this year.

"It seems that despite the targeted arms embargo, the Houthis continue to have access to ballistic missiles and UAVs to continue and possibly intensify their campaign against targets in KSA (Saudi Arabia)," said the report.

The panel said there was a "high probability" that the missiles were manufactured outside of Yemen, shipped in sections to the country and re-assembled by the Houthis.

In a letter to the panel, Iran maintained that the missiles, which the Houthis have dubbed the Burkan, are a domestic upgrade of SCUD missiles that were part of Yemen's arsenal before the start of the war.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the council in a separate report in June that some components from five missiles fired at Saudi Arabia were manufactured in Iran but that UN officials were unable to determine when they were shipped to Yemen.

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