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US intercepts Iranian shipment of 2,000 assault rifles destined for Yemen

230107-N-NO146-1004 GULF OF OMAN (Jan. 7, 2023) Thousands of AK-47 assault rifles sit on the flight deck of guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) during an inventory process, Jan. 7. U.S. naval forces seized 2,116 AK-47 assault rifles from a fishing vessel transiting along a maritime route from Iran to Yemen. (U.S. Navy photo)

(CNN) — The United States intercepted a shipment of more than 2,000 Iranian assault rifles destined for Yemen, according to a statement from the U.S. military.

The interception took place in international waters in the Gulf of Oman on Monday, U.S. Central Command said. A team from the USS Chinook, a patrol coastal vessel, boarded the other ship along a route historically used to smuggle weapons from Iran to the Houthis in Yemen.

A photo from the USS The Sullivans shows the 2,116 assault rifles covering the deck of the guided missile destroyer.

“The illegal flow of weapons from Iran through international waterways has a destabilizing effect on the region,” said Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla, the commander of U.S. Central Command.

Yemen has been engulfed in a devastating civil war since 2015, which has plunged the Gulf country into what has long been identified by aid groups as one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Iran has supported the Houthis, a rebel group who overthrew the government at the start of the war, against a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and aided by U.S. military support. The war between the two factions has brutalized the country, leading to widespread poverty and famine, and tens of thousands of civilian casualties.

Tensions between the United States and Iran have increased in recent months due to the crackdowns on civil unrest throughout the country. Additional U.S. sanctions on Iranian officials were announced just last week over their involvement in the production of drones being used by Russia in their war against Ukraine.

The United States has intercepted other shipments of weapons and explosives before along similar routes.

In November, the Navy seized what it described as a “large quantity” of explosives from a fishing vessel in the Gulf of Oman. The shipment included 70 tons of ammonium perchlorate and 100 tons of urea fertilizer, which are used to make explosives and rocket fuel. U.S. forces sunk the vessel after determining it was a hazard to navigation for commercial shipping.