The US Navy intercepted enough material to power more than a dozen medium-range ballistic missiles on a fishing boat headed from Iran to Yemen.
The US Naval Forces 5th Fleet seized the massive amount of explosive material on November 8 as the ship was traveling along a route used to ship weapons to Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the war-torn country.
“The illegal transfer of lethal aid from Iran does not go unnoticed,” Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, US 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, said in a statement. . “It is irresponsible, dangerous and leads to violence and instability throughout the Middle East.”
The Fifth Fleet said the ship was intercepted by the US Coast Guard ship USCGC John Scheuerman and the guided missile destroyer USS The Sullivans.
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“The coastal patrol ship USS Hurricane (PC 3) and Navy explosive ordnance disposal technicians from Task Force 56 of the US 5th Fleet also assisted during a week-long effort to fully search for the ship and verify the type of material found,” he said in a statement.
While on board, “forces discovered more than 70 tons of ammonium perchlorate, a powerful oxidizer commonly used to make rocket and missile fuel, as well as explosives,” according to the US 5th Fleet, adding that it was the first time he intercepted the material.
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The raid also dumped more than 100 tons of urea fertilizer, a chemical compound that can be used to make explosives.
US forces scuttled the ship on November 13 and determined it to be a hazard to commercial shipping. The four crew members operating it were returned to Yemen two days later during an exchange at sea in the Gulf of Aden with the Yemeni Coast Guard.