USS Dunham Seized 2,500 AK-47s from Skiff off Yemen
The crew of the guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham has finished the tally of the illicit weapons shipment they seized off Yemen on August 28. The stateless skiff they boarded was carrying 2,521 AK-47 automatic rifles, shipped from an unknown source to an undetermined destination.
The count follows an initial estimate of more than 1,000 rifles.
“As a part of our counter-trafficking mission, we are actively involved in searching for illegal weapons shipments of all kinds,” said Vice Adm. Scott Stearney, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet. “Ensuring the free flow of commerce for legitimate traffic and countering malign actors at sea continue to be paramount to the U.S. Navy and its regional partners and allies.
Part of a trend
The seizure comes after four weapons seizures in 2015 and 2016 by Combined Maritime Forces and U.S. 5th Fleet assets.
The first seizure was by Royal Australian Navy's HMAS Melbourne on September 27, 2015, when she intercepted a dhow containing 75 anti-tank guided munitions, four launch tubes, two launcher units and three missile guidance sets.
The second seizure was by the Royal Australian Navy's HMAS Darwin, which intercepted a dhow on February 27, 2016, confiscating nearly 2,000 AK-47 assault rifles, 81 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, 49 PKM machine guns, 39 PKM spare barrels and 20 60mm mortar tubes.
HMAS Darwin's crew intercepts weapons shipment off Somalia (Royal Australian Navy)
The third seizure was by the French Navy destroyer FS Provence on March 20, 2016, and yielded almost 2,000 AK-47 assault rifles, 64 Dragunov sniper rifles, nine anti-tank missiles and six PK machine guns with bipods.
The fourth seizure was by U.S. Navy coastal patrol ship USS Sirocco on March 28, 2016, when she intercepted a dhow containing 1,500 AK-47s, 200 RPG launchers and 21 .50 caliber machine guns.
The British investigative group Conflict Armament Research linked three of the caches to Iranian stockpiles. Based on an analysis of all available information, including crew interviews, a review of onboard records and an examination of the arms aboard the vessel, the United States concluded that the arms from the four interdictions in 2015 and 2016 originated in Iran and were intended to be delivered to Houthi rebel forces in Yemen.
The United States provides munitions and in-flight refueling services to the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi forces in Yemen.