August 11, 2022

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UK seizes Iranian missiles in international waters with US assist

The U.K. announced Thursday it had seized “sophisticated” Iranian missiles from smugglers in the Gulf of Oman earlier this year in what officials have pointed to as proof Tehran is supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen.

With assistance provided by the U.S. Navy, the Royal Navy HMS Montrose completed two separate seizures from smugglers operating speed boats off the coast of Iran on Jan. 28 and Feb 25.

In direct violation of a 2015 arms embargo enforced by the UN Security Council, the smugglers were found to have been carrying “dozens of packages” containing surface-to-air missiles and engines for land-attack cruise missiles.


“This is the first time a British Naval warship has interdicted a vessel carrying such sophisticated weapons from Iran,” the British embassy in Washington, D.C. said in a statement.

On both occasions, a Wildcat helicopter launched from the HMS Montrose and scanning the area in a routine check found vessels speeding away from the Iranian coastline.

After pursuing the vessels with the air support of an MH-60 Seahawk helicopter from the U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Gridley, British marines approached the vessels by rigid hulled inflatable boats (RHIB) before inspecting them.

“Dozens of packages containing advanced weaponry were discovered, confiscated and brought back to HMS Montrose,” the embassy said, adding that 358 surface-to-air missiles and 351 land-attack cruise missiles were discovered.

The British embassy also noted that the land-attack cruise missile, which has a range of over 620 miles, is regularly used by Houthi rebels in strikes against Saudi Arabia.


The missile was used in the Jan. 17, 2022 attack on Abu Dhabi, killing three civilians.

“These interdictions demonstrate the professionalism and commitment of the Royal Navy to promoting stability in this region,” Commander of HMS Montrose, Claire Thompson, said following the seizures. “I am extremely proud of my crew – the Royal Navy sailors, aircrew and Royal Marines involved in these endeavors and the significant positive impact they are having in maintaining the international rules-based order at sea.”

A panel of experts hosted by the U.K. Ministry of Defense examined the weapons seized in coordination with a UN Security Council resolution and received a technical brief by British Defense Intelligence analysts.

The U.S. and the U.K. have said they are committed to working together to stop Iran’s illegal smuggling of weapons to Yemen, which is the site of one of the greatest humanitarian crises in the world.

The eight-year-long war has killed an estimated 377,000 people and displaced more than 4.3 million Yemenis internally.

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