Tehran has denied that a ship loaded with rockets and explosives intercepted by Yemen’s coast guard originated from Iran as claimed by Yemeni officials, local media reported on Monday.
The reports cited an unnamed source in the foreign ministry as saying that Tehran “strongly denies claims” by Yemen that the vessel came from Iran and was loaded with arms destined for Shiite rebels in Sunni-majority Yemen.
“The reports in this regard have many ambiguities... these kind of irresponsible claims are not in line with the mutual interest of the two nations,” the source was quoted as saying.
The ship, flying several fake flags, was stopped on January 23 in Yemeni territorial waters by Yemen’s coast guard in coordination with the U.S. navy, authorities have said.
A Yemeni security official had on Sunday said the vessel came from Iran and that the arms “were destined for the Huthi rebels in Saada,” the stronghold of Shiite fighters in northern Yemen.
The vessel “came from Iran and was carrying arms and explosives, among them surface-to-air missiles SAM-2 and SAM-3,” Yemeni state news agency Saba reported, adding that the crew of eight Yemeni nationals were being questioned.
An offshoot of Shiite Islam, Zaidis, the sect to which Huthi rebels belong, are a minority in mainly Sunni Yemen but form the majority in the country’s mountainous north.
From 2004 the Huthis fought six wars with central government forces before signing a truce in February 2010. The rebellion claimed thousands of lives.
Yemen accuses the rebels of being backed by Shiite-dominated Iran, charges which the Zaidis deny.