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VIDEO: Australia seizes weapons from Iran en route to Houthis

Officals said An Australian warship seized a large weapons cache from a fishing boat headed for Somalia

Published: Updated:

An Australian naval ship has seized a large arms cache that may have come from Iran and headed to Yemen by way of Somalia, CNN said.

The Australian Navy said that one of its ships patrolling the region, the HMAS Darwin, intercepted a small, stateless fishing vessel about 170 nautical miles off the coast of Oman when it made the discovery. According to CNN, on board they found more than 2,000 pieces of weaponry -- including 1,989 AK-47 assault rifles and 100 rocket-propelled grenades.

The Associated Press said earlier that an Australian warship seized a large weapons cache from a fishing boat headed for Somalia, officials said.

The HMAS Darwin, a guided missile frigate, was carrying out counterterrorism operations in the Middle East when it intercepted a fishing boat 300 kilometers (190 miles) from Oman to conduct a flag verification boarding, the Defense Department said in a statement.

After assessing the boat to be stateless, the boarding team found 1,989 AK-47 assault rifles, 100 rocket propelled grenade launchers, 49 PKM general purpose machine guns, 39 PKM spare barrels and 20 60mm mortar tubes, it said. The boat was headed toward the Somalia coast, it said.

An Australian Defense Ministry spokesman told CNN there were 18 people of various nationalities on board the ship, but officials could not initially confirm that their identification documents were valid.

The weapons were seized under United Nations sanctions which authorize interdiction on the high seas of illicit weapons destined for Somalia, the statement said.

Vice Admiral David Johnston, Australian Chief of Joint Operations, said the seizure on Darwin’s first patrol of such a large haul of illicit weapons was “highly significant.”

The Defense Department statement did not say where the weapons and fishing boat crew were from or when the interception occurred. The statement also did not say what happened to the fishing boat crew. The department did not immediately respond to questions on Tuesday.

The Darwin is part of the Combined Maritime Forces, a multi-national naval coalition dedicated to promoting security and prosperity across international waters in the Middle East.

(With AP)