The US Navy and Coast Guard intercepted an enormous Iranian shipment of explosive materials headed to Yemen last week, according to a statement from the US Central Command.
The stateless fishing boat was carrying more than 180 tons of urea fertilizer and ammonium perchlorate when the Coast Guard ship USCGC John Scheuerman and Navy guided missile cruiser USS The Sullivans came across the dhow in international waters of the Gulf of Oman on Nov. 8.
For the next five days explosive ordnance disposal technicians from the US Naval Forces Central Command’s Task Force 56 and crew from the USS Hurricane searched the boat and identified the substances as urea fertilizer and ammonium perchlorate, which can both be used in explosives.
After US military explosives experts examined the boat and off-loaded the explosive material and Yemeni crew members, the US military deemed the boat a hazard to commercial ship navigation and sank it in the Gulf of Oman on Sunday. The USS The Sullivans transferred the four Yemeni crew to the Yemeni Coast Guard in the Gulf of Aden so they could be handed over to the Yemeni civil authorities.
This is the first time US forces assigned to the Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain have intercepted ammonium perchlorate, but they seized another large shipment of urea fertilizer earlier this year when the USS Cole and USS Chinook seized a fishing boat in the Gulf of Oman with 40 tons of urea fertilizer coming from the coast of Somalia.
The US military says it found more than 70 tons of ammonium perchlorate, an oxidizer that can be used to make rocket fuel, missile fuel, and other explosives. The dhow also had more than 100 tons of urea fertilizer, which can be used as an explosive precursor.
“Alongside our partner forces, CENTCOM is committed to security and stability of the region and to deterring the illegal and destabilizing flow of lethal material into the region over land, in the air, and at sea,” Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla said in a statement about the seizure.
“This was a massive amount of explosive material, enough to fuel more than a dozen medium-range ballistic missiles, depending on the size,” according to Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, US 5th Fleet, and Combined Maritime Forces. “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 supply, sale, or transfer of weapons to the Houthis violates UN Security Council Resolution 2216 and international law.