Yemeni fishermen seize Iranian vessel with 19 sailors

DUBAI • An Iranian vessel with 19 sailors on board has been seized near a Yemeni island by local fishermen, Yemen Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr has said.

According to a statement released by the Aden-based government last Saturday, "the Iranian ship was seized after it illegally entered Yemen's waters on the coast of Hadibu, the capital of the Socotra archipelago, between the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea".

"A group of Yemeni fishermen participated in capturing the Iranian ship along with 19 sailors on board," the statement said.

Sources close to Yemen's Prime Minister said "an investigation is underway with the ship's crew regarding the details of its cargo and the source of supply".

There was no immediate official Iranian reaction to the comments made by Mr Bin Daghr on his Twitter account. He also thanked the fishermen of another island in the archipelago, Abd al-Kuri, for the capture of the Iranians.

Iran's semi-official Fars news agency said the Yemeni government, which Teheran does not recognise, had "claimed" that an Iranian vessel with a crew of 19 had been seized on Friday.

However, local media reports quoted Yemen's Minister of Fisheries Fahd Kafayen as saying 29 sailors were caught inside the Iranian ship. There were no further details on the ship or its cargo.

Regional and Western sources have said Iran is sending advanced weapons and military advisers to Yemen's rebel Houthi movement, stepping up support for its Shi'ite ally in the country's civil war.

The Yemeni authorities repeatedly claim that Iranians are attempting to infiltrate Yemeni waters to carry out illegal operations, including smuggling arms to the rebels using small fishing boats.

Iran rejects accusations from Saudi Arabia that it is giving financial and military support to the Houthis, blaming the crisis on Riyadh.

REUTERS, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2017, with the headline 'Yemeni fishermen seize Iranian vessel with 19 sailors'. Print Edition | Subscribe