US Fleet Seizes Explosive Material in the Gulf of Oman

The United States’ 5th Fleet seized a fishing vessel in the Gulf of Oman that was smuggling a considerable amount of explosive material from Iran to war-torn Yemen, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs said Tuesday in a statement.

US Navy Gulf of OmanU.S. 5th Fleet seizes a considerable amount of explosive materials in the Gulf of Oman. (Photo: America's Navy, License)The vessel and its four Yemeni crew members were apprehended while transiting from Iran along a route historically used to transport weapons to Yemen’s Shia Houthi group, violating the U.N. Security Council Resolution 2216 and international law, read the statement.

“U.S. forces discovered more than 70 tons of ammonium perchlorate, a powerful oxidizer commonly used to make rocket and missile fuel as well as explosives,” the Navy said.

Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, stressed that the explosive material seized would be “enough to fuel more than a dozen medium-range ballistic missiles depending on the size.”

“The unlawful transfer of lethal aid from Iran does not go unnoticed. It is irresponsible, dangerous and leads to violence and instability across the Middle East,” he said.

The interception, according to the statement, occurred a week before, on Nov. 8, when U.S. Coast Guard ship USCGC John Scheuerman (WPC 1146) and guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) saw the vessel as it transited international waters in the Gulf of Oman.

It took Navy experts a week to completely examine the ship and verify the kind of substance found in the 5th Fleet's first ever interdiction of ammonium perchlorate.

The search also turned up more than 100 tons of urea fertilizer – a chemical substance having agricultural benefits that is also used as an explosive precursor, according to the statement.

Following the search, the U.S. troops sank the vessel Nov. 13 in the Gulf of Oman, as “it was a hazard to navigation for commercial shipping.”

Earlier this year, in January, the U.S. 5th Fleet seized 40 tons of urea fertilizer when the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) and patrol coastal ship USS Chinook (PC 9) intercepted another fishing vessel in the Gulf of Oman that had attempted to smuggle illicit weapons off the coast of Somalia months earlier, according to the statement.

The U.S. 5th Fleet’s operational area comprises 21 nations, the Arabian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman, the Red Sea, sections of the Indian Ocean, as well as three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, Bab al-Mandeb, and the Suez Canal.