Coalition seizes Iran boat loaded with arms for Houthi rebels

The Saudi-led coalition said the vessel was intercepted on Saturday and that 14 Iranians and weapons including anti-tank shells were found on board.

Weapons seized by Saudi-led coalition forces on the deck of an Iranian boat. Media office of Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen / Handout via Reuters
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RIYADH // The Saudi-led coalition said on Wednesday it had seized an Iranian fishing boat in the Arabian Sea loaded with weapons destined for Houthis rebels it is fighting in Yemen.

The coalition said that the vessel was intercepted on Saturday and that 14 Iranians and weapons including anti-tank shells were found on board.

It said that papers found on board the boat showed that it was registered to an Iranian and was licensed for fishing by the Iranian authorities.

It listed the weapons seized as 18 anti-armoured Concourse shells, 54 anti-tank BGM17 shells, 15 shell battery kits, four firing guidance systems, five binocular batteries, three launchers, one launchers’ holder and three batteries.

The vessel was seized 150 nautical miles off the Omani port of Salalah, the coalition statement said.

The coalition’s announcement comes as the US navy’s 5th Fleet says a ship carrying illicit arms in the Arabian Sea was intercepted last week by a member of a US-led maritime security coalition and was not registered with any country.

The navy said the dhow and the arms onboard were believed to have left from Iran, and that the weapons included anti-tank arms thought to be of Iranian and Russian origin.

The crew said the vessel was bound for Somalia.

Saudi Arabia and its coalition allies have repeatedly accused their Shiite rival Iran of arming the Houthi rebels who control large areas of Yemen, including the capital.

But despite operating an air and sea blockade for the past six months, they have not previously come up with any evidence.

The coalition intervened in support of president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi when the rebels advanced on his last refuge Aden in March, prompting him to flee the country to Riyadh.

In May, an Iranian boat headed to the rebel-controlled Red Sea port of Hodeida with 2,500 tonnes of aid was diverted to Djibouti following warnings from the coalition and the United States.

Wednesday’s announcement comes as relations between Riyadh and Tehran are at a new low amid a war of words over a deadly stampede at this year’s Haj in which at least 239 Iranian pilgrims were killed.

* Agence France-Presse and Associated Press