The U.S. military says it seized a cache of weapons it believes was being transported from Iran to Shi'ite Houthi rebels fighting for control of Yemen.
The USS Sirocco, a coastal patrol ship, confiscated the weapons in the Arabian Sea on March 28 from a small craft known as a dhow. The seized weapons included 1,500 Kalashnikov rifles, 200 rocket-propelled grenade launchers and 21 .50-caliber machine guns.
The U.S. Navy said the dhow and its crew were allowed to depart after the weapons were seized.
The weapons seizure marked the third time in two months a shipment to Houthi fighters has been blocked, with earlier seizures by Australian and French sailors.
Weapons were seized from a stateless dhow which was intercepted by the Coastal Patrol ship USS Sirocco in the waters of the Arabian Sea on March 28. The illicit cargo included 1,500 AK-47s, 200 RPG launchers, and 21 .50 caliber machine guns.
“We obviously are concerned about this development,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Monday about the latest weapons seizure.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook added the weapons seizure by the U.S. Navy is “an indication of the kind of vigilance that the U.S. military will maintain in that part of the world.”
But Cook added there is no indication Iran is ramping up its engagement in “potentially destabilizing activities.”
“That’s always been a concern of ours, he said, adding "I don't think our picture of Iran has changed all that much.”
A Saudi-led, U.S.-supported coalition is fighting in Yemen against Shi'ite rebels and their allies. The rebels have denied receiving support from Iran.
White House Correspondent Aru Pande contributed to this story.