The US Navy says it found thousands of machine guns, sniper rifles, and assault weapons on a sailing ship believed to be bringing them from Iran to support the war in Yemen.
The guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey discovered the weapons hidden aboard a dhow, a traditional Mideast sailing ship spotted in the northern reaches of the Arabian Sea off Oman and Pakistan, the Navy said Sunday alongside images and video of the arsenal laid out. The huge cache was found below deck, mostly wrapped in green plastic, officials said of the two-day operation that started Thursday.
It included nearly 3,000 Chinese Type 56 “assault rifles”, a variant of the Kalashnikov, as well as hundreds of other heavy machine guns and sniper rifles, the Navy said. There were also dozens of advanced, Russian-made anti-tank guided missiles, and several hundred rocket-propelled grenade launchers and optical sights for weapons.
An initial investigation found it was heading to Yemen from Iran, again tying the Islamic Republic to arming Yemen’s Houthi rebels despite a United Nations arms embargo, sources told The Associated Press. “The unique blend of material recovered by the USS Monterey appears to be consistent with the material from previous interdictions, which have been linked to Iran,” Tim Michetti, an investigative researcher who studies the illicit weapon trade, also told the wire service. Officially, the Navy said “the original source and intended destination of the” weapons is “currently under investigation” [NY Post].