The United Nations found thousands of weapons recently seized in the Arabian Sea likely came from a single port in Iran, evidence Tehran is exporting arms to Yemen and elsewhere, The Wall Street Journal newspaper has reported.
Yemen has been racked by war since 2014, pitting Iran-backed Houthi rebels against the internationally recognised government and a Saudi Arabian-led military force.
Citing a confidential report by a UN Security Council panel of experts on Yemen, the Journal on Saturday wrote that boats and land transport were used to smuggle weapons made in Russia, China and Iran into Yemen.
The arms included rocket launchers, machine guns and sniper rifles, which had been seized by the US Navy in recent months.
“The mix of the weapons indicates a common pattern of supply, likely from government stocks, involving dhows [boats] in the Arabian Sea, which transport weapons to Yemen and Somalia,” the report said.
The UN imposed an arms embargo on the Houthis in 2015.
The United States as well as ally Saudi Arabia – which leads the military coalition backing the Yemeni government – have long accused Iran of supplying the Houthis with weapons, a charge Tehran denies.
Iranian authorities did not immediately respond to the report. A Houthi official in Yemen denied it, calling allegations of Iranian weapon smuggling “an illusion”.
“Seaports and airports are shut so how can these alleged weapons can reach us?” Nasr al-Din Amir, the deputy chief of the Houthis’ ministry of information, was quoted as saying by the Journal.
Boats used to transport the weapons left from the southeastern Iranian port of Jask, the UN report found, based on interviews with the boat crew and data from the onboard navigational instruments.
In recent months, fighting in Yemen has seen Saudi-led coalition forces carry out air raids on the rebel-held capital Sanaa.
Riyadh has said its 2015 intervention in Yemen was aimed at preventing an Iranian ally taking power on its doorstep.
The UN estimates Yemen’s war directly or indirectly killed 377,000 people. More than 80 percent of the population of about 30 million require humanitarian assistance.