The US Navy last week intercepted an Iranian non-flagged ship in the Gulf of Oman loaded with chemical compounds that can be used to make explosives, the US 5th Naval Fleet announced today.
“US forces discovered 40 tonnes of urea fertilizer, a chemical compound with agricultural applications that are also known to be used as an explosive precursor,” reads a statement from the Bahrain-based fleet.
The incident took place on Tuesday, January 18, “during a shipment for flag verification and subsequent inspection,” according to the statement quoted by France-Presse, Associated Presse, and EFE news agencies.
The ship was from Iran and was sailing on a route in international waters “historically used for arms trafficking to the Yemeni Houthis”, according to the US forces’ statement.
It is an Iranian-backed Shia rebel group that is at war with the internationally recognized government of Yemen.
The same Iranian ship had already been intercepted in February 2021, off the coast of Somalia, with a shipment of weapons of war on board, according to the US military.
“Following the January 18 intercept, the US Navy transferred the ship, cargo, and five Yemeni crew to Yemen Coast Guard officers on January 21,” the 5th Naval Fleet added in the statement.
The apprehension now disclosed comes at a time of great tension in the region: on January 17, the Houthis carried out an unprecedented attack in the United Arab Emirates with ‘drones’ (unmanned aircraft) and missiles, in which three people died.
In response, the Saudi-led coalition helping the Yemeni government fight the rebels launched airstrikes on Houthis positions.
The coalition acknowledged attacking Sanaa and Hodeida, where at least 17 people died, but denied bombing a prison in Saada, a Houthi stronghold in the north, which killed at least 80 people and injured more than 100.
The coalition and its allies, including the United States, regularly accuse Iran of supporting the Houthis with military means, which Tehran denies.
Based in Manama, the capital of the small island kingdom of Bahrain, the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet carries out surveillance activities in the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, and Central Asia.
The ongoing war in Yemen has killed 130,000 people since 2015, both civilians and combatants, and has exacerbated hunger and misery across the country.
The conflict in Yemen is considered by the UN as the greatest current humanitarian tragedy on the planet: 80% of the country’s population needs some type of assistance to meet basic needs.
Located in the Middle East, along the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea, and bordering Oman and Saudi Arabia, Yemen has a population of around 33 million people.
Source: with agencies