Yemen detains Iranian ship over suspicious cargo

15 Pakistani sailors, Iranian captain questioned in Yemen

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Yemen's security forces have detained an Iranian ship in Yemeni coastal waters off the island of Socotra over suspicions about its cargo, and the crew members are under investigation, state media said on Monday.

The ship, which state media said had entered Yemeni waters illegally, was held after fishermen reported its presence to authorities. The crew, 15 Pakistani sailors and an Iranian captain, are being investigated and the ship searched.

"The security apparatus in the Socotra archipelago does not rule out that the Iranian ship may have been involved in smuggling drugs to Yemen," the Defense Ministry's online newspaper said. It did not say when the ship was detained.

Yemen, at the forefront of Western security concerns since a failed December attack on a U.S.-bound plane, boosted security on its coast earlier this year to prevent militants reaching its shores from nearby Somalia to reinforce al-Qaeda in Yemen.

Al-Qaeda's Yemen-based arm claimed responsibility for the failed December attack. Western allies and neighboring oil exporter Saudi Arabia fear al-Qaeda is exploiting instability on several fronts in impoverished Yemen to recruit and train militants for attacks in the region and beyond.

Yemen, whose location at the southern rim of the Arabian Peninsula places it near one of the world's busiest shipping corridors, is a long-standing base of support for al-Qaeda.

Militants bombed the U.S. Navy warship USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden in 2000, killing 17 U.S. sailors. Yemenis were one of the largest groups to train in al-Qaeda's camps in Afghanistan before the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.