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A dhow carrying Iranian weapons to Houthi forces in Yemen

Photo shows the dhow transporting Iranian weapons to Houthi forces in Yemen. Photo: U.S. Central Command

U.S. Charges Four for Smuggling Iranian-Made Weapons to Yemen

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 2461
February 22, 2024

The U.S. Justice Department has charged four foreign nationals related to the U.S. Navy’s seizure of Iranian-made weapons from a dhow in Arabian Sea earlier this year, according to a criminal complaint unsealed today.

The operation tragically resulted in the loss of two Navy SEALs.

The seizure took place on the night of January 11 after U.S. Central Command Navy forces operating from the USS Lewis B. Puller, including Navy SEALs and members of the U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team East, boarded an unflagged dhow in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Somalia.

During a search of a dhow, U.S. forces allegedly found and seized Iranian-made advanced conventional weaponry, including components for medium range ballistic missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles. The weaponry is consistent with that used by Houthi rebel forces in recent attacks on merchant and U.S. military ships.

The seizure marked the first confiscation of advanced conventional weapons (ACW) since the Houthis began attacking merchant ships in November 2023.

Fourteen mariners on board the dhow who were taken on board USNS Lewis B. Puller for questioning. On February 11, the U.S. secured arrest warrants for four of the mariners, namely Muhammad Pahlawan, Mohammad Mazhar, Ghufran Ullah, and Izhar Muhammad. Pakistani identification cards were allegedly found for each of them. Ten material witness warrants were also obtained for the remaining individuals on the vessel.

“The Justice Department extends our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the two Navy SEALs who lost their lives on January 11th while conducting an operation in the Arabian Sea,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The charges resulting from that interdiction make clear that the Justice Department will use every legal authority to hold accountable those who facilitate the flow of weapons from Iran to Houthi rebel forces, Hamas, and other groups that endanger the security of the United States and our allies.”

“The FBI will aggressively investigate and disrupt the Iranian Government’s attempts to provide Houthi rebels with missile components that are intended for use against U.S. military ships, merchant vessels, and Israel,” added FBI Director Christopher Wray.

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