The British navy has seized anti-tank missiles and fins for ballistic missile assemblies during a raid on a boat heading from Iran likely to Yemen, UK and US authorities say.
A United Nations resolution bans arms transfers to Yemen’s Houthi rebels. The Islamic Republic long has denied arming the Shia fighters, despite widespread evidence, numerous seizures and experts tying the weapons back to Iran.
The seizure by the Royal Navy took place in the Gulf of Oman on February 23 after an US aircraft detected a small motorboat with cargo covered by a gray tarp heading from Iran, the British Defense Ministry said on March 2.
It said a helicopter from the Royal Navy frigate HMS Lancaster chased the boat as it ignored being hailed by radio and tried to reenter Iranian waters.
“This seizure by HMS Lancaster and the permanent presence of the Royal Navy in the Gulf region supports our commitment to uphold international law and tackle activity that threatens peace and security around the world,” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said.
British troops found inside the boat Russian 9M133 Kornet anti-tank guided missiles, according to the British navy and the US Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet.
Also on board were small fins that the US Navy identified as jet vanes for medium-range ballistic missiles and devices “impact sensor covers” that go on the tips of those missiles.
The US Navy described the seizure as happening “along a route historically used to traffic weapons unlawfully to Yemen.”
Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, the commander of the US 5th Fleet, said in a statement that this was “yet another example of Iran’s increasing malign maritime activity across the region.”
More than 5,000 weapons, 1.6 million rounds of ammunition, 30 anti-tank missiles and other weapon components have been seized in the last three months, the US Navy said.
Iranian officials have not commented on the latest seizure.
Iran-backed Houthi rebels have been fighting the internationally recognized government in Yemen, which is backed by a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally.
The years-long war has deteriorated largely into a stalemate and spawned one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
A March 2022 cease-fire expired in October, raising concerns that the conflict could escalate again.
More than 150,000 people have been killed during the fighting. The UN says around 23.4 million people need assistance, including almost 13 million children.