US seeks to keep ammunition seized en route to Yemen

Fuses and rocket propellant found aboard a fishing trawler was linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard

Bags containing ammunition, fuses and propellants for rockets are displayed aboard the USS Lewis B Puller after being seized from a fishing trawler in the Gulf of Oman on December 1, 2022. DVIDS / AFP
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The United States is seeking to keep more than one million rounds of ammunition that the US Navy seized in December as it was in transit from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to militants in Yemen, the Justice Department said on Friday.

“The United States disrupted a major operation by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to smuggle weapons of war into the hands of a militant group in Yemen," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

"The Justice Department is now seeking the forfeiture of those weapons, including over 1 million rounds of ammunition and thousands of proximity fuses for rocket-propelled grenades."

US naval forces on December 1 intercepted a fishing trawler smuggling more than 50 tonnes of ammunition rounds, fuses and propellants for rockets in the Gulf of Oman along a maritime route from Iran to Yemen, the Navy said.

They found more than one million rounds of 7.62mm ammunition; 25,000 rounds of 12.7mm ammunition; nearly 7,000 proximity fuses for rockets; and more than 2,100 kilograms of propellant used to launch rocket propelled grenades, it said.

The forfeiture action is part of a larger government investigation into an Iranian weapons-smuggling network that supports military action by the Houthi movement in Yemen and the Iranian regime’s campaign of terrorist activities throughout the region, the Justice Department said.

The forfeiture complaint alleges a sophisticated scheme by the IRGC to clandestinely ship weapons to entities that pose grave threats to US national security.

US and British naval ships have made numerous seizures of weapon shipments believed to be intended for the Houthis, who triggered a devastating civil war in Yemen after seizing the capital in 2014 and forcing the internationally recognised government into exile.

With reporting from Reuters

Updated: April 01, 2023, 8:50 AM