US Navy's Fifth Fleet seizes huge cache of weapons that it said included Russian-made anti-tank guided missiles, Chinese Type 56 assault rifles, Kalashnikov-style rifles, sniper rifles, heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

This handout photo courtesy of US Navy and made available on May 10, 2021, shows weapons seized by USS Monterey in international waters of the North Arabian Sea.
This handout photo courtesy of US Navy and made available on May 10, 2021, shows weapons seized by USS Monterey in international waters of the North Arabian Sea. (AFP)

The US Navy's Fifth Fleet has seized a huge cache of "illicit" Russian and Chinese weapons from a stateless dhow sailing in international waters of the North Arabian Sea.

The Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain, said on Sunday the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey intercepted the vessel and discovered the cargo during a routine boarding, in a two-day operation on May 6-7.

"The cache of weapons included dozens of advanced Russian-made anti-tank guided missiles, thousands of Chinese Type 56 assault rifles, and hundreds of PKM machine guns, sniper rifles and rocket-propelled grenades launchers," it said in a statement.

The arms are in US custody and their source and intended destination is under investigation, it said.

Vessel released 

The Fifth Fleet said the Monterey was in operation for 36 hours, providing security for boarding teams.

"After all illicit cargo was removed, the dhow was assessed for seaworthiness, and after questioning, its crew was provided food and water before being released."

The statement did not indicate where the vessel may have come from, but said the US Navy's regular patrols in the region "disrupt the transport of illicit cargo that often funds terrorism and unlawful activity".

Yemen arms supply  

The assortment of arms aboard the dhow mirrored other shipments interdicted by the US and allied forces in the region that later were described to be heading to Yemen, where Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have been battling a Saudi-led military coalition for control of the country since 2015.

Yemen is awash with small arms that have been smuggled into poorly controlled ports over years of conflict.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies