In a statement, the 5th Fleet said the weapons included “dozens of advanced Russian-made anti-tank guided missiles” and “thousands of Chinese Type 56 assault rifles,” as well as hundreds of Kalashnikov machine guns, sniper rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. The weapons were found during a routine flag verification check of a stateless dhow (ship) traveling in international waters, the Navy said, with members of the USS Monterey’s U.S. Coast Guard Advanced Interdiction Team taking part in the inspection.
The destination for the weapons was not immediately clear. Similar shipments intercepted by the Navy and its allies had been bound for Houthi rebels in Yemen, U.S. officials said.
A U.N. Security Council Resolution in 2015 imposed an arms embargo on the Houthis. The Iranian-backed Shiite rebels have been engaged in a battle for control of Yemen with the internationally recognized government, which is supported by a Saudi-led military coalition.
Shahrokh Nazemi, head of the media office at the Permanent Mission of Iran to the United Nations in New York, said in an email on Monday that Iran “categorically denies being in any way involved.”
Saeed Khatibzadeh, spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry in Tehran, also denied any involvement in the weapons at a weekly news conference held on Monday.
In the past, Iranian officials have denied allegations that they were exporting weapons to the Houthis.