The US on Saturday accused Iran of trying to smuggle more than a million rounds of ammunition and rocket components to Yemen, after a major weapons bust at sea.
An American warship hauled 50 tonnes of weaponry from a fishing trawler on a key maritime smuggling route used by Tehran, US officials said.
“This significant interdiction clearly shows that Iran’s unlawful transfer of lethal aid and destabilising behaviour continues,” said Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, based in Bahrain.
“US naval forces remain focused on deterring and disrupting dangerous and irresponsible maritime activity in the region.”
The seizure made by personnel from the USS Lewis B Puller is the US Fifth Fleet's second major illegal weapons haul in a month.
A search party that boarded during routine checks found more than a million rounds of 7.62mm ammunition, 25,000 rounds of 12.7mm ammunition, nearly 7,000 proximity fuses for rockets and over 2,100 kilograms of propellant used to launch rocket-propelled grenades.
Tehran has for years helped to train and arm the Houthi rebel group, which controls about one third of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa. The group has made repeated pushes to capture the oil-rich Marib district.
The Fifth Fleet intercepted a fishing vessel illegally shipping weapons from Iran to Yemen on November 8, when the US Coast Guard ship John Scheuerman and guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans intercepted a vessel in the Gulf of Oman.
A week-long search assisted by Navy explosive ordnance disposal technicians discovered more than 70 tonnes of ammonium perchlorate, a powerful oxidiser commonly used to make rocket and missile fuel as well as explosives.
US forces also found more than 100 tonnes of urea fertiliser, a chemical compound with agricultural applications that is also known for use as an explosive precursor.