The United States Navy 5th Fleet intercepted on December 1 a fishing trawler smuggling more than 50 tons of ammunition rounds, fuses and propellants for rockets in the Gulf of Oman along a maritime route from Iran to Yemen, the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) announced on December 3.
The command said in a statement that the illicit cargo was discovered by Navy personnel operating from expeditionary sea base USS Lewis B. Puller during a flag verification boarding.
The cargo included more than 1 million rounds of 7.62mm ammunition; 25,000 rounds of 12.7mm ammunition; nearly 7,000 proximity fuses for rockets; and over 2,100 kilograms of propellant used to launch rocket propelled grenades.
“This significant interdiction clearly shows that Iran’s unlawful transfer of lethal aid and destabilizing behavior continues,” said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces. “U.S. naval forces remain focused on deterring and disrupting dangerous and irresponsible maritime activity in the region.”
NAVCENT statement indicates that the ammunition and weapons were heading to the Houthis (Ansar Allah) in Yemen, who are close allies of Iran.
Commenting on the seizure, Gen. Erik Kurilla, commander of the U.S. Central Command, said that Iran “remains the primary destabilizing element in the Middle East.”
“We are committed to countering Iran’s malign behavior on behalf of security & stability for the region,” the commander added.
This was the second such seizure by the U.S. Navy in less than a month. On November 8, the 5th Fleet intercepted a similar smuggling vessel in the Gulf of Oman. Aboard the vessel, more than 70 tons of ammonium perchlorate, a powerful oxidizer commonly used to make rocket and missile fuel as well as explosives, were found along with more than 100 tons of urea fertilizer, that is also known for use as an explosive precursor.
The U.S. maintains a large naval presence in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean near Yemen to indirectly support the Saudi-led war on the Houthis there.