US Navy Detains Stateless Ship Carrying Explosive Material to Yemen – The U.S. and U.K. Royal Navies, working together to cease the flow of contraband weapons and illegal drugs headed to the country of Yemen have made seizures that will have fueled greater violence in the conflict gripping the Middle Eastern nation.
The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet reported that the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole and other ships detained and searched a stateless fishing dhow, one that had been stopped in the past, that had sailed from Iran on a well-known maritime arms smuggling route to Yemen last Tuesday.
The 5th Fleet released a statement that said that the guided-missile destroyer and patrol ship “interdicted the stateless vessel transiting from Iran… along a route historically used to traffic weapons to the Houthis in Yemen.”
“US forces discovered 40 tons of urea fertilizer, a chemical compound with agricultural applications that are also known to be used as an explosive precursor,” it added.
During the stop, U.S. forces found and seized 40 tons of urea fertilizer, which is a key ingredient in homemade improvised explosive devices, that the ship had hidden on board.
The Royal Navy’s HMS Montrose, in a released statement from the joint maritime task force, detained another vessel and seized a large quantity of illegal drugs valued at some $26 million, including 1461 pounds of heroin, 191 pounds of methamphetamine, and an additional 641 pounds of hashish and marijuana from a boat sailing through the Gulf of Oman on January 15.
A team of sailors and Royal Marines approached the small vessel on two small inflatable boats before securing and searching the vessel. During the search, they found the illicit drugs which were transferred to the HMS Montrose where they were analyzed before being destroyed.
With the violence spiraling out of control in Yemen, the influx of arms only continues to fuel the fighting. The U.N. has stated that the humanitarian suffering the worst in the world, with nearly 80 percent of the 30 million people in the country requiring humanitarian assistance.
The fighting has been ongoing since 2014 and is far from being decided, either on the battlefield or by political negotiation. Tensions are even higher now since the Houthi rebels hit the UAE’s oil facilities with a combined drone, cruise, and ballistic missile attack last week.
The U.N. has levied an arms embargo on the Houthi rebels since 2015, but the United States has alleged that Iran has constantly flouted that embargo. The same ship that was stopped by the Cole’s group was stopped and had arms seized last February.
Back in late December, a destroyer from the U.S. Navy, the USS O’Kane (DDG 77), stopped and searched a dhow that originated from the Iranian port of Jask with a Yemeni crew and found 1,400 AK-47 assault rifles and 226,600 rounds of ammunition, the navy said.
The operation was conducted on December 20 during “flag verification boarding in accordance with customary international law,” the statement added. The navy then sank the vessel after removing the crew and illicit cargo.
A report from the Wall Street Journal stated that the U.N. detailed in a report that Iran has been flouting the arms embargo by illegally importing arms that have been made by Russia, China, as well as Iran, ammunition, that included rocket launchers, machine guns, and sniper rifles, many of which had been seized by the US Navy in recent months.
The Iranians have denied sending arms to Yemen, while the Saudis are accused of conducting indiscriminate airstrikes and have recently conducted heavy strikes on the rebel-held capital of Sanaa.
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 1945, he covers the NFL for PatsFans.com and his work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.