Over the weekend the US Navy announced that a massive shipment of military equipment had been intercepted and seized off the coast of Oman. USS Monterey (CG-61), a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, supported by a Coast Guard Advanced Interdiction Team, made the discovery during a routine boarding of a cargo ship in international waters.
Aboard the interdicted vessel, the USN found an assortment of small arms that, based on available photographs and official statements, includes thousands of individual weapons and kit. Primarily of Chinese and Russian design they include assault rifles, machine guns, sniper rifles and anti-tank weapons. The US Navy statement specifically identified “Chinese Type 56 assault rifles, and hundreds of PKM machine guns” among these small arms. Heavier weapons were found as well in the form of Russian-manufactured anti-tank guided missiles.
After being questioned, the crew was given provisions and eventually released along with the ship. The seized weapons are planned to be destroyed. The Navy reports that the origin and destination of the shipment are still being investigated. However, given the nature of the shipment and where the ship was interdicted, Iran-backed Houthi rebels In Yemen were a very likely destination. Illicit-weapons-trade-researcher Tim Michetti told ABC news that:
“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.”
The USS Monterey boarded the ship while deployed to the North-East Indian Ocean as part of regular operations aimed at curbing terrorism, piracy and smuggling. The interdiction was made as part of a 2-day operation running from 6-7 May over the course of which the Navy stated that the “Monterey provided more than 36 hours of over watch and security for its boarding teams and the interdicted vessel”.