US Navy stops ship carrying ‘explosive precursor’ from Iran on Yemen route

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The US navy said Sunday it had stopped a ship carrying 40 tons of a fertilizer that can be used to make explosives as it travelled from Iran along a route previously used to smuggle weapons to Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia.

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The navy said it boarded and searched the ship - which last year was caught carrying thousands of weapons - and handed the vessel to Yemen’s coast guard, after intercepting it in international waters in the Gulf of Oman on Tuesday.

A US guided-missile destroyer and patrol ship “interdicted the stateless vessel transiting from Iran... along a route historically used to traffic weapons to the Houthis in Yemen,” the Bahrain-based US 5th Fleet said.

“US forces discovered 40 tons (36,300 kilos) of urea fertilizer, a chemical compound with agricultural applications that is also known to be used as an explosive precursor,” it added.

The seizure comes at a time of high tensions in the region after a deadly drone-and-missile attack on Abu Dhabi by the Houthis prompted the Arab Coalition to launch air strikes on Yemen this week.

The same “stateless fishing vessel” was found to be carrying thousands of AK47 assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launches and other weapons when it was stopped last February, the US Navy said.

The coalition and its allies, including the US, regularly accuse Iran of providing military support to the Houthis, claims that Tehran denies.

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