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Navy intercepts illegal arms from Iran


U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Walter M. Wayman

A U.S. Navy Coastal Patrol ship intercepted an illegal arms shipment traveling on a small cargo ship in the Arabian Gulf, confiscating hundreds of AK-47 rifles, Rocket Propelled Grenades and .50-Cal. Machine Guns.

The shipment, originating from Iran, was believed to be bound for Yemen to support Houthi rebels fighting the Yemeni government, Navy officials told Scout Warrior.

The USS Gravely, a guided missile destroyer, was called in to support the Coastal Patrol ship, the USS Sirocco, Cmdr. Kevin Stephens, spokesman for the US Navy's 5th fleet, told Scout Warrior.

"Intelligence led us to determine we might find something," Stephens added. "They talked over maritime radio and sent a boarding team over."

The illicit cargo included 1,500 AK-47s, 200 RPG launchers, and 21 .50 caliber machine guns, a Navy statement said.

"This seizure was the third time in recent weeks international naval forces operating in the waters of the Arabian Sea seized a shipment of illicit arms which the United States assessed originated in Iran and was likely bound for Houthi insurgents in Yemen. The weapons are now in U.S. custody awaiting final disposition," the statement continued.

Citing the ongoing civil war in Yemen, Stephens added that sending illegal weapons to an insurgent group will only make a difficult problem works.

"The Houthis are an insurgent group which seized control of the country and ousted the legitimate government. It is a disastrous humanitarian situation," Stephens explained.

A potential factor behind the US support for the legitimate Yemeni government is their collaboration with the US on counterterrorism activities fighting Al Qaeda in the country.

Alongside efforts to support the ongoing air attacks against ISIS from the Arabian Gulf, the Navy is also invested in protecting what they call the "global commons." This includes a series of strategically significant waterways essential to trade, shipping and other maritime activities. With this in mind, the Navy routinely conducts anti-piracy and counterterrorism operations in the region.