Elements from the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard intercepted a vessel last week carrying a “massive” Iranian shipment of explosive materials bound for Yemen, according to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
The fishing vessel, carrying four Yemeni crew members, was stopped in international waters on Nov. 8 by the Coast Guard cutter John Scheuerman and the Navy guided missile destroyer The Sullivans.
Explosive ordnance disposal technicians from U.S. 5th Fleet’s Task Force 56 and the crew of the Navy patrol ship Hurricane helped seize more than 170 tons of urea fertilizer and ammonium perchlorate, materials used for making explosives.
“This was a massive amount of explosive material, enough to fuel more than a dozen medium-range ballistic missiles depending on the size,” Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, said in a statement.
“The unlawful transfer of lethal aid from Iran does not go unnoticed. It is irresponsible, dangerous and leads to violence and instability across the Middle East.”
The vessel was reportedly on a route that is “historically used to traffic weapons to the Houthis in Yemen,” the command statement said.
After offloading its contents, the U.S. military determined the boat to be a hazard to commercial ship navigation and sank it in the Gulf of Oman. The four Yemeni crew members were transferred to Yemen for repatriation.
This is not the first time U.S. 5th fleet has stopped a vessel from smuggling in the region.
Earlier this month, the Navy seized $1 million in drugs from Iranian and Pakistani nationals who set their fishing vessel on fire in the Gulf of Oman.
In January, the guided-missile destroyer Cole and patrol coastal ship Chinook intercepted another fishing vessel attempting to transfer illicit weapons off the coast of Somalia, seizing 40 tons of urea fertilizer in the process.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media