Britain's Royal Navy said on Thursday one of its warships seized Iranian weapons, including surface-to-air-missiles and engines for cruise missiles, from smugglers in international waters south of Iran earlier this year.
A helicopter from the HMS Montrose frigate spotted speedboats moving away from the Iranian coast on January 28 and February 25 and dozens of packages containing the advanced weaponry were confiscated, the Royal Navy said in a statement.
The British statement did not say where the missiles were bound, but said the 351 cruise missile, with a range of 1,000 kilometres, is often used by Yemen's Houthi group to target Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The statement provided some of the strongest findings to date to indicate Tehran is arming Yemen's Houthi rebels.
The UK's embassy in the UAE described the seizure of surface-to-air-missiles and engines for land attack cruise missiles as “the first time a British naval warship has interdicted a vessel carrying such sophisticated weapons from Iran.”
“The UK will continue to work in support of an enduring peace in Yemen and is committed to international maritime security so that commercial shipping can transit safely without threat of disruption,” said armed forces minister James Heappey.
Iran’s mission to the UN rejected the UK’s findings as “groundless,” saying that Iran has “never transported weapons or military equipment to Yemen” in violation of the UN arms embargo and “always upheld its international obligations.”
Houthi officials were not immediately available to comment.
US Navy destroyer USS Gridley supported the February seizure, the Royal Navy said. Both seizures occurred while HMS Montrose was on routine maritime security operations, it added.