DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: The Saudi-led coalition battling Yemen's Shiite rebels said Wednesday that it has foiled an attempt by Iran to smuggle missiles and other weapons to the rebels aboard a fishing boat bound for Yemen.
Saudi Arabia and its coalition allies fear that Iran is actively providing aid to the rebels, known as Houthis, as a way to gain a foothold on the Arabian Peninsula. Iran acknowledges providing political support to the rebels but denies arming them directly.
The weapons seizure took place early afternoon on Saturday, about 240 kilometers (150 miles) southeast of the Omani port of Salalah, according to a coalition statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
The ship was carrying 18 pieces of one type of anti-tank missile and 54 of another, as well as launchers and other equipment, according to the coalition. Fourteen crew members aboard the ship have been arrested, including the captain, identified as Bakhsh Jakal.
The ship was registered to an Iranian named Hogan Mohammed Hout, licensed as a fishing vessel and was carrying papers indicating it was checked by port and customs officials in Iran's southeastern Sistan and Baluchistan province, according to the coalition.
Photos released by the coalition showed a large traditional wooden dhow, a type of vessel commonly used in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, with a brown hull and blue-and-white superstructure.
Iranian state media carried no report on the allegations, and Iranian authorities could not immediately be reached for comment.
A spokesman for the US Navy's 5th Fleet, which operates around the Arabian Peninsula, had no immediate comment. The US is providing logistical support to the coalition.
Yemen has been embroiled in fighting that pits the Houthis and forces loyal to a former president against the Saudi-backed and internationally recognized government as well as southern separatists, local militias and Sunni extremists. The coalition has been carrying out airstrikes against the rebels and their allies since March.