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U.S. Navy: Somalia-Bound Weapons Cache Came From Iran

An Australian frigate intercepted a Somalia-bound fishing dhow carrying thousands of arms that authorities believe came from Iran, NBC News reported Monday.

The HMAS Darwin intercepted the small vessel, which hid the weapons under fishing nets, nearly 200 miles off the coast of Oman. The Darwin is part of an international task force against smuggling and piracy that includes the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and others. The dhow’s crew was released as members of the task force only have the authority to intercept weapons, not to detain smugglers in international waters. The U.S. Navy believes that the crew was Iranian and that the vessel departed from Iran.

[Photo: Royal Canadian Navy]The seizure of the more than 2,000 weapons took place on February 27, but wasn’t made public until Monday. According to the Australian navy, the shipment included “1,989 AK-47 assault rifles, 100 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, 49 PKM machine guns, 39 PKM spare barrels and 20 mortar tubes.”

While the U.S. Navy originally determined that the arms were meant for Houthi rebels in Yemen, it later assessed that they were in fact headed to Somalia. The weapons were seized because of an existing embargo on shipping arms to Somalia. (Iran is also prohibited from exporting arms for the next five years, according to the terms of last year’s nuclear deal.)

A 2014 United Nations report concluded that Iran was a major smuggler of arms to Hamas, despite UN Security Council resolutions prohibiting it from exporting weapons. Two Gulf states, Bahrain and Kuwait, also accused Iran last year of smuggling arms to destabilize their governments.

[Photo: Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet / Flickr ]