US detains smuggling ship in Gulf of Oman, Navy says


The U.S. Navy detained a stateless vessel in the Gulf of Oman that had previously been caught smuggling weapons near Somalia last year.

According to a statement released by the Navy on Sunday, the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole and the patrol ship USS Chinook intercepted the vessel outside of Iran's territorial waters. The ship was apparently using a route commonly used to traffic weapons to Houthi fighters in Yemen, the Navy said.

On the ship, U.S. forces found 40 tons of urea fertilizer, which can be used as an explosive precursor. The same ship had been detained by the USS Winston S. Churchill last year off the coast of Somalia, with illicit weapons discovered on board and seized. At the time, the crew on the ship was provided with food and water before being released.

The most recent detainment took place on Jan. 6 and the ship, its cargo and its five Yemeni crew members were transferred to Yemen Coast Guard officials on Friday.

As The Associated Press noted, small arms are smuggled into Yemen through its poorly-controlled ports. The weapons have helped Houthi rebels to gain an edge in their fight with a Saudi-led military coalition.

The seizure of the potentially dangerous chemicals comes amid rising violence in Yemen between the Saudi-backed coalition and Houthi fighters. 

On Friday, at least 70 people were killed and over 100 injured in Yemen in a Saudi Arabia-backed airstrike. The attack targeted a Yemen prison and was part of an effort to push back Houthi rebels.

The strike also occurred just days after a Houthi-claimed drone attack in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, killed three people. Two Indian nationals and one Pakistani national were killed, according to Emirati authorities.