Navy seizes 70 tons of missile fuel in the Gulf of Oman


Sailors from guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) inventory a large quantity of urea fertiliser and ammonium perchlorate discovered on a fishing vessel intercepted by U.S. naval forces while transiting international waters in the Gulf of Oman in Arabian Sea, in this photo taken on November 9, 2022 and made provided by U.S. Navy on November 15, 2022. Kevin Frus/U.S. Navy Forces Central Command/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS- THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.

(NewsNation) — The Navy has seized 70 tons of a component of missile fuel from a ship sailing from Iran to Yemen.

The amount of material is enough to power dozens of medium-range ballistic missiles.

The U.S. Coast Guard ship USCGC John Scheuerman and guided missile destroyer USS The Sullivans stopped a traditional wooden sailing vessel known as a dhow in the Gulf of Oman on Nov. 8, the Navy said. During a weeklong search, sailors discovered bags of ammonium perchlorate hidden inside of what initially appeared to be a shipment of 100 tons of urea.

Urea, a fertilizer, can also be used to manufacture explosives.

The dhow was so weighted down by the shipment that it posed a hazard to nearby shipping in the Gulf of Oman, a route that leads from the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf, out to the Indian Ocean. The Navy ended up sinking the ship with much of the material still on board due to the danger, Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins, a spokesman for Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet, said.

This is the first seizure of its kind in the years-long war between Yemen’s internationally recognized government and Houthi rebels.

Houthis seized Yemen’s capitol city of Sanaa in 2014, forcing the government into exile. A coalition led by Saudi Arabia, armed with U.S.-supplied weapons, backed the exiled government, while Iran has supported the Houthis.

A United Nations arms embargo has prohibited weapons transfers to the Houthis since 2014. Despite that, Iran has long been transferring rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, missiles and other weaponry to the Houthis via dhow shipments. Though Iran denies arming the Houthis, independent experts, Western nations and U.N. experts have traced components seized abroad detained vessels back to Iran.

A six month ceasefire ended in October after efforts to renew it failed. More than 150,000 people have been killed in Yemen during the fighting, which also drove the country to the brink of famine, including over 14,500 civilians.

The four Yemeni crew members of the ship were handed over to the exiled government.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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