US Navy interdicts stateless vessel previously caught smuggling weapons

Photo: US Navy

On January 18, ships of the US Navy Fifth Fleet interdicted a stateless fishing vessel in the Gulf of Oman nearly a year after the same vessel was caught smuggling illicit weapons off the coast of Somalia.

The guided missile destroyer USS Cole and the patrol coastal ship USS Chinook interdicted the stateless vessel transiting from Iran in waters outside of any state’s territorial sea along a route historically used to traffic weapons to the Houthis in Yemen.

During a flag verification boarding and subsequent search, US forces discovered 40 tons (36 tonnes) of urea fertiliser, a chemical compound with agricultural applications that is also known to be used as an explosive precursor.

The vessel was the same stateless dhow interdicted in February 2021 off the coast of Somalia by the guided missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill and discovered to be carrying weapons. Among the cache of weapons seized were thousands of AK-47 assault rifles, light machine guns, heavy sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and crew-served weapons.

The inventory in the earlier seizure also included barrels, stocks, optical scopes and weapon systems.

Following the January 18 interdiction, the navy transferred the vessel, its cargo, and five Yemeni crewmembers to Yemen Coast Guard officials.

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