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U.S. military says huge Iranian weapons shipment destined for Yemen rebels seized in Gulf of Oman

The U.S. military forces say they supported an operation last month to intercept and seize thousands of assault weapons, ammunition and advanced missiles that were being shipped from Iran to Yemen, authorities announced this week. The U.S. and its regional allies accuse Iran of directly supporting Houthi rebels who have waged a bloody civil war against Yemen's internationally-backed government for almost a decade. 

In this photo release by the U.S. Navy, hundreds of AK-47 assault rifles sit on the flight deck of the guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans during an inventory process, Jan. 7, 2023. The U.S. Navy has seized over 2,100 assault rifles from a ship in the Gulf of Oman it believes came from Iran and were bound for Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels. U.S. Navy photo via AP

In a statement released Wednesday, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees American military operations across the Middle East, said the seizure took place in the Gulf of Oman on January 15 and was carried out by partner naval from an allied country. French troops led the interdiction, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Gulf of Oman is a major international trade route but has long been used for illegal arms trafficking, too, according to CENTCOM. In the shipment intercepted on January 15, CENTCOM said the allied naval forces recovered more than 3,000 assault rifles, 578,000 rounds of ammunition and 23 advanced anti-tank guided missiles.

Iranian officials dismissed the claims as "politically motivated" and aimed at "misdirecting the people of the world," AFP said.

The U.S. and its international partners have conducted four major maritime seizures over the last two months, all of which intercepted vessels carrying ammunition toward Yemen.

On the frontline with Yemen troops fighting civil war that allows al-Qaeda to thrive 02:50

CENTCOM said those operations alone had prevented more than 5,000 weapons and 1.6 million rounds of ammunition from reaching Yemen.

The U.S. Navy said in early January that it had intercepted a Yemeni-crewed fishing vessel carrying an illicit weapons shipment, including 2,116 AK-47 assault rifles "on a route historically used to traffic illicit cargo to the Houthis in Yemen" through the Gulf of Oman.

"The direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of weapons to the Houthis violates U.N. Security Council Resolution 2216 and international law," the Navy said at the time.

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