A U.S. Navy destroyer seized thousands of Kalashnikov-style rifles, light machine guns, heavy sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and crew-served weapons from two “state-less” small vessels plying off the coast of Somalia on February 12.
While the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet did not identify the source of the smuggled weapons an anonymous U.S. official was quoted as saying by AFP that there were “some indications” the arms were bound for Yemen just across the Gulf of Aden.
The U.S. Navy destroyer intercepted and searched the two ships for illicit cargo as part of the Navy''s routine maritime security patrol in the region. Those aboard the vessels were released after the operation, it added.
Last June, Saudi naval forces seized a dhow carrying anti-tank missiles and thousands of assault rifles believed to have been manufactured in Iran. They were on their way to Yemen via smuggling networks in Somalia, according to a recent report by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.
The U.A.E and Saudi Arabia allege that Iran has armed the Houthis with weapons such as assault rifles and ballistic missiles. The 5th Fleet repeatedly has accused Iran of smuggling arms via the Arabian Sea to the Houthis, which hold Yemen's capital, Sanaa, and much of the country's north.
However, Iranian officials accuse the U.A.E. of arming Sunni militias aligned to the Saudi-led coalition against the predominantly ethnic Shia Houthi rebels.