The US Navy assisted the French military in seizing thousands of assault rifles and half a million rounds of ammunition that were heading to Yemen from Iran in January, the US military confirmed on Wednesday.
The seizure in the Gulf of Oman occurred on January 15, according to 5th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Tim Hawkins.
“US 5th Fleet assets assisted partner maritime forces in the interdiction by sharing information and helping coordinate the overall effort,” Hawkins said. “We also ultimately took custody of the confiscated weapons through a ship-to-ship transfer with partner forces.”
A US official confirmed to CNN that the French military was the partner force in question.
US Central Command confirmed on Wednesday that more than 3,000 assault rifles, 578,000 rounds of ammunition, and 23 anti-tank guided missiles were seized last month. CENTCOM personnel “provided valuable and timely information to international forces conducting the interdiction,” the release says, “and helped coordinate the supporting efforts of US military assets.”
Wednesday’s CENTCOM release said the seizure is “one of four significant illicit cargo interdictions over the past two months,” which has prevented the transfer of more than 5,000 weapons and 1.6 million rounds of ammo to Yemen.
On Wednesday, CENTCOM also announced that Yemeni security forces recently seized 100 unmanned aerial vehicle engines “bound for Houthi militants,” though the release did not specify when the seizure occurred.
The seizure came just five days after CENTCOM announced that the US had intercepted a shipment of 2,116 Iranian assault rifles heading for Yemen. In a separate release on Wednesday, CENTCOM also announced that Yemeni security forces recently seized 100 unmanned aerial vehicle engines “bound for Houthi militants,” though the release did not specify when the seizure occurred.
Yemen has been embroiled in a civil war since 2015; Iran has backed the Houthis, a rebel group who overthrew the government at the beginning of the war, against a Saudi-led coalition aided by the US. The war has caused widespread poverty and famine, as well as tens of thousands of civilian casualties, creating what aid groups have deemed one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.