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Western allies seize arms shipment bound for Yemen’s rebels: Pentagon

An operation by Western allies reportedly led by France seized a boatload of weapons and ammunition allegedly being sent to Yemen from Iran last month, the US military said.

More than 3,000 assault rifles, 578,000 rounds of ammunition and 23 anti-tank guided missiles were recovered in the January 15 operation in the Gulf of Oman, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said Wednesday.

CENTCOM, which oversees American military operations across the Middle East, said the US supported the interdiction operation, while not specifying which partner led it.

But the Wall Street Journal said it was undertaken by French special forces, citing officials familiar with the operation.

The operation took place “along routes historically used to traffic weapons unlawfully from Iran to Yemen”, CENTCOM said in a statement.

Iran however dismissed the statement, saying the US claims were “politically motivated” and aimed at “misdirecting the people of the world”.

Tehran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said in a statement Thursday that countries that sold weapons to states that have “invaded” Yemen were “not in a position to accuse others”.

The United States is a key supplier of arms to Saudi Arabia which in 2015 launched an operation in Yemen to drive out Iran-backed Huthi rebels who had seized the capital Sanaa.

Iran has meanwhile widely been reported to offer material support to the Huthi rebels during the seven-year war, a claim rejected by Tehran.

On January 6, US forces intercepted a fishing vessel in the Gulf of Oman that was carrying more than 2,100 assault rifles, also believed to have been headed to Yemen from Iran.

US forces in December seized a boat loaded with tons of ammunition, chemicals, fuses and rocket propellants believed to have been bound for the Huthis, who have fired rockets and attack drones at Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

But Yemen has also become a key hub in the arms trade with eastern Africa, with weaponry sold by Yemen-based traders to rebels in Somalia, Sudan and elsewhere.