US Navy seizes thousands of assault weapons from ship allegedly sent by Iran

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Wild images show thousands of assault weapons, machine guns and sniper rifles the US Navy says it found on a sailing ship believed to be bringing them from Iran to support the war in Yemen.

The guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey discovered the weapons hidden aboard a dhow, a traditional Mideast sailing ship spotted in the northern reaches of the Arabian Sea off Oman and Pakistan, the Navy said Sunday alongside images and video of the arsenal laid out.

The huge cache was found below deck, most wrapped in green plastic, officials said of the two-day operation that started Thursday.

It included nearly 3,000 Chinese Type 56 assault rifles, a variant of the Kalashnikov, as well as hundreds of other heavy machine guns and sniper rifles, the Navy said.

There were also dozens of advanced, Russian-made anti-tank guided missiles, and several hundred rocket-propelled grenade launchers and optical sights for weapons, according to the Navy.

While the ship was stateless, an initial investigation found it was heading to Yemen from Iran, again tying the Islamic Republic to arming Yemen’s Houthi rebels despite a United Nations arms embargo, sources told The Associated Press.

“The unique blend of materiel recovered by the USS Monterey appears to be consistent with the materiel from previous interdictions, which have been linked to Iran,” Tim Michetti, an investigative researcher who studies the illicit weapon trade, also told the wire service.

Officially, the Navy said “the original source and intended destination of the” weapons is “currently under investigation.”

“Assessment of the findings will be an interagency effort,” the statement said.

Starting in Sept. 2014, Yemen’s war has killed some 130,000 people, including over 13,000 civilians slain in targeted attacks, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Project. The U.N. Security Council has imposed an arms embargo on the Houthis in 2015.

Despite that, U.N. experts warn “an increasing body of evidence suggests that individuals or entities in the Islamic Republic of Iran supply significant volumes of weapons and components to the Houthis.”

Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment, though Tehran has denied in the past giving the rebels weapons.

With Post wires

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