U.S. transfers suspected smugglers to Yemeni government

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Nov. 15 (UPI) — The U.S. Coast Guard says they have intercepted a fishing vessel that was smuggling lethal aid, including a large number of explosive components and ammunition, from Iran to Yemen.

“U.S. Coast Guard vessel USCGC John Scheuerman (WPC 1146) and guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) interdicted the vessel as it transited international waters,” read a statement on Tuesday from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs.

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During a weeklong inspection process, U.S. forces, assisted by explosives ordinance disposal technicians from the U.S. 5th Fleet’s Task Force 56, discovered more than 70 tons of ammonium perchlorate, an oxidizer used in rockets.

The search also uncovered more than 100 tons of urea fertilizer. While urea fertilizer has agricultural uses, the chemical compound urea can be used as a precursor for explosives.

“This was a massive amount of explosive material, enough to fuel more than a dozen medium-range ballistic missiles depending on the size,” said Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces. “The unlawful transfer of lethal aid from Iran does not go unnoticed,” Cooper added.

The four Yemeni crew were interdicted along a route commonly used by smugglers transporting arms to Ansar Allah, known colloquially as the Houthi Movement. U.N. Security Council Resolution 2216 restricts the sale or transfer of weapons to Ansar Allah and affiliated militias.

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The vessel was deemed to be a risk and sunk by U.S. forces on Nov. 13. The four crew members were transferred to the Yemen Coast Guard for repatriation on Nov. 15.

The Yemeni human rights organization Mwatana has warned that the Houthis, as well as the Government of Yemen, routinely kill and torture prisoners suspected of collaborating with the opposing side. The U.S. Department of State says all parties in Yemen are guilty of “unlawful or arbitrary killings.”

The State Department’s 2021 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Yemen notes that prison conditions in both government and Houthi-held territory do not meet international standards.