The US Navy said Tuesday it found 70 tons of a missile fuel component hidden among bags of fertilizer aboard a ship bound to Yemen from Iran, the first-such seizure in that country’s yearslong war as a cease-fire there has broken down.
The US 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 November 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, also can be used to manufacture explosives.
The Navy said the amount of ammonium perchlorate discovered could fuel more than a dozen medium-range ballistic missiles, the same weapons Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have used to target both forces allied to the country’s internationally recognized government and the Arab Coalition that supports them.
The apparent rearming effort comes as Iran has threatened Saudi Arabia, the United States and other nations over the months-long protests calling for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic’s theocracy.
The Houthis could not be immediately reached for comment. Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.