ADEN, Yemen, March 7 (UPI) -- The Australian Navy seized a small fishing vessel carrying more than 2,000 weapons in the Gulf of Aden that may have been sent from Iran to Yemen's Houthi rebels.
The Australian HMAS Darwin naval ship, performing counter-terrorism operations under the international Combined Task Force 150, was patrolling the region when it intercepted the stateless fishing vessel about 170 nautical miles off the coast of Oman that was heading to the coast of Somalia.
More than 2,000 weapons were found aboard, including 1,989 AK-47 assault rifles and 100 rocket-propelled grenades. The U.S. Navy's Lt. Ian McConnaughey told CNN the weapons were initially sent from Iran and were ultimately intended for Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The weapons were seized under a U.N. sanction allowing the interception of illegal weapons on the seas if headed toward Somalia. There were 18 people of various nationalities aboard the ship, but officials could not confirm their identification documents were authentic.
"Australia worked as part of the multinational Combined Maritime Forces to discover and seize these illegal weapons," Chief of Joint Operations Vice Admiral David Johnston said in a statement. "One of the key reasons HMAS Darwin is deployed to the region is to contribute to global security and counter international terrorism. Darwin's successful boarding and subsequent seizure of the weapons concealed under fishing nets highlights the need to remain vigilant in the region."