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US Warship Heads to Yemen; Could Block Iran Weapons

Monday, 20 April 2015 03:03 PM

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is steaming toward the waters off Yemen to beef up security and join other American ships that are prepared to intercept any Iranian vessels carrying weapons to the Houthi rebels fighting in Yemen.

Navy officials said Monday that the Roosevelt was moving through the Arabian Sea. The U.S. Navy has been beefing up its presence in the Gulf of Aden and the southern Arabian Sea amid reports that a convoy of about eight Iranian ships is heading toward Yemen and possibly carrying arms for the Houthis. Navy officials said there are about nine U.S. warships in the region, including cruisers and destroyers carrying teams that can board and search other vessels.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ship movement on the record.

The Houthis are battling government-backed fighters in an effort to take control of the country. The U.S. has been providing logistical and intelligence support to Saudi Arabia-led coalition launching airstrikes against the Houthis. That air campaign is now in its fourth week.

The U.S. Navy generally conducts consensual boardings of ships when needed, including to combat piracy around Africa and the region. So far, however, U.S. naval personnel have not boarded any Iranian vessels since the Yemen conflict began.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest would not comment specifically on any Navy movements in Yemeni waters, but said the U.S. has concerns about Iran's "continued support for the Houthis.

"We have seen evidence that the Iranians are supplying weapons and other armed support to the Houthis in Yemen. That support will only contribute to greater violence in that country. These are exactly the kind of destabilizing activities that we have in mind when we raise concerns about Iran's destabilizing activities in the Middle East."

He said "the Iranians are acutely aware of our concerns for their continued support of the Houthis by sending them large shipments of weapons."

An air strike on a Scud missile base in the Houthi-controled Yemeni capital Sanaa triggered a big explosion that killed 25 people and wounded almost 400 on Monday, state news agency Saba said.

Saudi Arabia has led an alliance of Sunni Arab countries in air strikes against the Iran-allied Shi'ite Houthi group and army units loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

"Twenty-five citizens were killed and more than 398 were wounded, mostly women and children, according to a preliminary figure after the Saudi aggression's bombing today," said the agency, which is run by the Houthis.

The number could not be immediately verified, but medical sources told Reuters at least 15 people had been killed and scores wounded.

The blast hit the base on Faj Attan mountain beside the Hadda district, home to the presidential palace and many embassies, blowing out the windows of homes for kilometers around and sending a tall mushroom cloud into the air.

Resident Adel Mansour said it was the largest explosion in more than three weeks of bombing by the Saudi-led coalition.

"For the first time since the start of the bombing the windows of my house smashed," Mansour said. "My children are terrified and one of my relatives fainted because of the force of the blast."

The campaign has repeatedly targeted the Faj Attan facility along with other military bases and airports in Sanaa and throughout the country.

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The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is steaming toward the waters off Yemen to beef up security and join other American ships that are prepared to intercept any Iranian vessels carrying weapons to the Houthi rebels fighting in Yemen.
US, United States, Iran
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2015-03-20
Monday, 20 April 2015 03:03 PM
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