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French Navy Seizes 3,000 Assault Rifles From Dhow in Gulf of Oman

French Navy warship's fantail covered in rifles
Courtesy U.S. Central Command

Published Feb 2, 2023 10:49 PM by The Maritime Executive

A French warship has seized a major shipment of weapons from a dhow off the coast of Yemen, according to the Wall Street Journal. It is the latest in a series of arms interdictions in the region as allied Western navies crack down on the smuggling routes connecting Yemen's Houthi rebels with their Iranian suppliers. 

The French warship (unnamed in reports) intercepted the smuggling vessel on January 15, and a boarding team found 3,000 rifles and 20 antitank missiles. The U.S. military was involved in coordinating the interdiction, and Central Command confirmed that it occurred "along routes historically used to traffic weapons unlawfully from Iran to Yemen." 

The cache of weapons consisted primarily of AK-style rifles with folding stocks, along with PKM machine guns and missile canisters - all similar to the arms seized by U.S. Navy warships in previous interdictions in the region. 

Image courtesy Central Command

Drug and weapons busts are common in the waters off Yemen's south coast. On January 30, the crew of the USCGC Emlen Tunnell captured 4,000 kilograms of hashish and 512 kilograms of methamphetamine, valued at a total of about $33 million. 

On January 6, the USS Chinook discovered more than 2,000 assault rifles aboard a fishing vessel crewed by Yemeni nationals in the Gulf of Oman. The patrol ship USS Monsoon and the destroyer USS The Sullivans arrived shortly after to assist in the search, and the weapons were confiscated. U.S. Central Command identified the shipment as Iranian in origin. 

Three days earlier, the French Navy frigate FS Guépratte seized 3,500 kilograms of hashish and 500 kilograms of heroin from a dhow in the Arabian Sea. 

"These threats have our attention. We remain vigilant in detecting any maritime activity that impedes freedom of navigation or compromises regional security," said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of U.S. 5th Fleet, in a statement after USS Chinook's bust.