The French Navy seizes an Iranian shipment of weapons on its way to the Houthis

English - Wednesday 01 February 2023 الساعة 05:10 pm
Aden, NewsYemen:

 An American newspaper reported that French special forces had confiscated an Iranian shipment of weapons on its way to the Houthi militia, the Iranian arm in Yemen.

The Wall Street Journal said that French special forces seized a boat loaded with weapons and ammunition that Iran had sent to the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The newspaper quoted officials familiar with the operation as saying that on January 15, a French warship stopped a suspected smuggling vessel off the Yemeni coast, where the specially trained French team boarded the boat.

On board the ship, the officials said, the French military discovered more than 3,000 assault rifles, half a million rounds of ammunition and 20 anti-tank guided missiles.

It stated that the operation, which was coordinated with the US military, is the result of a more proactive French role in tackling arms smuggling in the Middle East.

The naval operation was part of an international effort to enforce a United Nations arms embargo on weapons going to the Houthis in Yemen.

Tim Hawkins, a spokesman for the US Fifth Fleet, Naval Regional Command Center in Bahrain, said the US military assisted in the January 15 weapons seizure in the Gulf of Oman, but declined to elaborate.

He added, "During the past two months alone, we and our partners have prevented more than 5,000 weapons and 1.6 million rounds of ammunition from reaching Yemen." 

On Wednesday, the French army declined to comment on the operation.

The newspaper pointed out that the French operation is the latest in a series of arms seizures that indicate that Iran continues to provide its Houthi allies in Yemen with firepower, despite the unofficial nine-month cease-fire that allowed more room for political talks.

The United States and its allies accused Tehran of supplying Houthi forces with missiles, drones and other weapons, which it used to carry out hundreds of attacks targeting Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

In early January, the US Navy said it seized more than 2,000 assault rifles from a ship in the Gulf of Oman.  

US officials said at the time that the weapons were destined for Houthi forces in Yemen.

General Michael Korella, commander of US Central Command, said at the time that the illegal flow of weapons from Iran through international waterways had a destabilizing effect in the region.

 Last July, for the first time, the United Kingdom said that the Royal Navy had seized surface-to-air missiles and cruise missile engines from a boat sailing off the southern coast of Iran.

Last December, the US Navy said it had confiscated 1,400 AK-47 rifles and more than 226,000 rounds of ammunition from a fishing vessel in the northern Arabian Sea.  The US military said the ship came from Iran.

In a separate operation that same month, the US Navy said it seized more than 1.1 million rounds of ammunition from a fishing vessel operating between Iran and Yemen.