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Western allies seize arms shipment bound for Yemen’s rebels: Pentagon

The U.S. military said a Western allied operation led by France reportedly seized a shipment of weapons and ammunition that was said to have been bound for Yemen from Iran last month.

More than 3,000 assault rifles, 578,000 rounds of ammunition and 23 anti-tank guided missiles were recovered during the January 15 operation in the Gulf of Oman, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Wednesday.

Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, said the U.S. was supporting the intercept, but did not specify which partner was leading it.

But the Wall Street Journal, citing officials familiar with the operation, said it was carried out by French special forces.

In a statement, Central Command said the operation “followed routes historically used to illicit arms trafficking from Iran to Yemen.”

Iran, however, dismissed the statement, saying the US claims were “politically motivated” and aimed at “misleading the people of the world”.

Tehran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser al-Kanani said in a statement on Thursday that countries that sold arms to countries that had “invaded” Yemen “cannot point the finger at other countries”.

The United States is a major arms supplier to Saudi Arabia, which launched an operation in Yemen in 2015 to drive out Iran-backed Houthi rebels who had captured the capital Sanaa.

Meanwhile, it has been widely reported that Iran provided material support to the Houthi rebels during the seven-year war, a claim Tehran has rejected.

On Jan. 6, U.S. forces intercepted a fishing boat in the Gulf of Oman carrying more than 2,100 assault rifles, which were also believed to be traveling from Iran to Yemen.

U.S. forces in December seized a ship carrying tons of munitions, chemicals, fuzes and rocket propellant believed to be bound for the Huthis, which has launched rockets and attack drones into Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates .

But Yemen has also become an important hub for the arms trade with East Africa, with Yemeni traders selling arms to rebels in Somalia, Sudan and elsewhere.

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