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France seizes Iranian assault rifles and missiles heading for Yemen

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France seizes Iranian assault

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — French naval forces in January seized thousands of assault rifles, machine guns, and anti-tank missiles in the Gulf of Oman from Iran heading for Houthi rebels in Yemen, officials said Thursday, the latest such ban amid the Middle Eastern nation’s long-running war.

While Iran did not immediately acknowledge the seizure, footage of the weapons released by US Army Central Command showed them to be similar to others captured by US forces in other related shipments. in Tehran.

The announcement comes as Iran faces mounting Western pressure over its dispatch of drones to arm Russia during its war against Ukraine, as well as its months-long violent crackdown targeting protesters. Regional tensions have also escalated after an alleged Israeli drone attack on a military workshop in the central Iranian city of Isfahan. Previous rounds of violence since the collapse of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers have seen the Islamic Republic launch retaliatory attacks at sea.

The seizure took place on January 15 in the Gulf of Oman, a body of water that stretches from the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf, to the Arabian Sea and the ocean Indian. US Central Command described the ban as occurring “along routes historically used for illegal arms trafficking from Iran to Yemen”.

A UN resolution bans arms transfers to Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, who took the country’s capital in late 2014 and are at war with a Saudi-led coalition supporting the internationally recognized government of Yemen. the country since March 2015.

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The Wall Street Journal first reported on the seizure, identifying the forces involved as elite French special forces. A regional official familiar with the ban, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the details of the operation, also identified the Frenchmen as carrying out the capture.

The French military did not respond to requests for comment on the capture of the weapons. US Central Command did not immediately respond to questions about the seizure, nor did Iran’s mission to the United Nations. While France maintains a naval base in Abu Dhabi, it generally takes a calmer approach in the region while maintaining a diplomatic presence in Iran.

Iran has long denied arming the Houthis, though Western nations, UN experts, and others have traced weapons ranging from night vision goggles, rifles, and missiles to Tehran. In November, the US Navy said it found 70 tons of a missile fuel component hidden among bags of fertilizer aboard a ship bound for Yemen from Iran. Houthi ballistic missile strikes have targeted Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the past.

Footage taken by US Central Command on Wednesday, analyzed by the AP, showed various weapons aboard an unidentified ship apparently docked in a port. Weapons appeared to include Chinese-made Type 56 rifles, Russian-made Molot AKS20Us, and PKM-type machine guns. All have appeared in other arms seizures attributed to Iran.

Central Command said the seizure included more than 3,000 rifles and 578,000 cartridges. The released images also showed 23 container-launched anti-tank missiles, which were also found in other shipments linked to Iran.

The war in Yemen has largely deteriorated into a stalemate and spawned one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. However, no Saudi-led airstrikes have been recorded in Yemen since the kingdom began a ceasefire in late March 2022, according to the Yemen Data Project.

This ceasefire expired in October despite diplomatic efforts to renew it. This raises fears that the war may escalate again. More than 150,000 people have been killed in Yemen during the fighting, including more than 14,500 civilians.

Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.

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