UN accuses Iran of smuggling weapons into Yemen

Thousands of rocket launchers, machine guns and sniper rifles said to be transported in small wooden boats

A photo released by the US Navy showing weapons that were seized from a stateless fishing vessel in the North Arabian Sea arranged for inventory on the flight deck of the ‘USS O'Kane'. AP

Iran has reportedly sent thousands of weapons seized in the Arabian Sea to Yemen, a UN report found on Sunday.

A draft document by the UN Security Council's panel of experts on Yemen said wooden boats and overland transport left from the Iranian port of Jask on the Sea of Oman to smuggle weapons made in China, Russia and Iran into Yemen. The report said the US military has been trying to shut down smuggling in the area for years.

The Wall Street Journal revealed the UN report, citing interviews with the boat's Yemeni crews and data from navigational instruments found on board.

“US officials said Jask has been used as a departure point for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for some time, but the UN report provides the first detailed evidence about specific arms shipments tied to the port,” the newspaper said.

The weaponry includes rocket launchers, machine guns and sniper rifles, which had been seized by the US Navy in recent months.

The US Navy intercepted two large caches of Iranian weapons from two boats in the Arabian Sea, which the US Justice Department said Tehran had intended to ship to the Houthis.

Iran has been accused of meddling in regional affairs by militarily backing proxy groups in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

Officials in Tehran have denied these accusations.

The Houthi deputy information minister denied Iran was smuggling weapons into Yemen, The Wall Street Journal reported, and Tehran said the weapons were not sold or transported to the country.

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The war in Yemen started in 2014 after the Houthi rebels' seizure of the capital, Sanaa, forcing the government to flee to the south and to Saudi Arabia.

In 2015, the Saudi Arabian-led coalition intervened at the request of the internationally recognised government in efforts to restore its power.

Last week, the Houthis were accused of the hijacking of a UAE-flagged ship off the coast of Yemen.

The rebels captured the Rawabi last Monday from the Red Sea port of Hodeida, alleging it contained military materiel.

The ship was taking a Saudi Arabian field hospital from Yemen's Socotra Island in the Indian Ocean to Jazan in the south of the kingdom, the coalition said.

The cargo included ambulances, medical and communications equipment, tents, a field kitchen and laundry facilities, as well as technical and security support equipment.

Port under rebel control

Hodeidah, currently under rebel control, is a crucial entry point for aid supplies to Yemen's rebel-held north.

"Hodeida is the main port of arrival for Iranian ballistic missiles," coalition spokesman Turki Al Malki told a news conference this week.

The Houthis have repeatedly taken aim at military and civilian ships in the Red Sea and Bab Al Mandeb, drawing international condemnation.

The US designated the rebels as terrorists early last year after a string of attacks on oil tankers in the Red Sea.

Updated: January 10th 2022, 3:01 AM