US military video purports to show arms smuggling off Yemen

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A U.S. military video released early Friday purported to show small ships in the Gulf of Aden smuggling weapons amid the ongoing war in Yemen, with officials saying they seized over 1,000 arms from the vessels.

The seizure by the guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham may mark the first such interdiction of weapons at sea bound for Yemen in years for American forces patrolling the region.

However, the military did not identify the weapons seized, nor did they say whom they suspected of smuggling the weapons. The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The short video clip appeared to show a skiff and a dhow, a traditional ship that commonly sails the waters of the Persian Gulf region. As the vessels bob in the high waves, people on the dhow toss large boxes into the skiff.

"The guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham . conducted a flag verification boarding aboard a dhow and skiff in accordance with customary international law, finding both vessels to be stateless, and over 1,000 weapons aboard the skiff," a caption for the video reads.

The U.S. military did not offer a location for the seizure in the Gulf of Aden, which has Yemen to its north and Somalia to its south. Smuggling of drugs, weapons and charcoal into and out of Somalia by criminal gangs and militant groups remains common.

The 5th Fleet repeatedly has accused Iran of smuggling arms via the sea to Yemen's Shiite Houthi rebels. It points to seizures over a four-week period in early 2016, when coalition warships stopped three dhows in the Arabian Sea. The dhows carried thousands of Kalashnikov assault rifles as well as sniper rifles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, anti-tank missiles and other weapons.

One dhow carried 2,000 new assault rifles with serial numbers in sequential order, suggesting they came from a national stockpile, a report by the group Conflict Armament Research said. The rocket-propelled grenade launchers also bore hallmarks of being manufactured in Iran, the group said.


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