Followers of Yemen's al-Houthi Shi'ite group
Followers of Yemen's al-Houthi Shi'ite groupReuters

Iran has denied claims that it was responsible for the ship loaded with rockets and explosives that was intercepted by Yemen’s coast guard, local media reported on Monday, according to AFP

Tehran “strongly denies claims” by Yemeni officials that the vessel came from Iran and was loaded with arms destined for Shiite rebels in Sunni-majority Yemen, the report cited an unnamed source in the foreign ministry as saying.

“The reports in this regard have many ambiguities... these kind of irresponsible claims are not in line with the mutual interest of the two nations,” the source was quoted as saying.

The ship, which was flying several flags, but which had no reliable documentation showing its source of origin, was intercepted on January 23 in Yemeni territorial waters by Yemen’s coast guard, which was working at the tie with the United States navy.

A Yemeni security official said on Sunday that the vessel came from Iran and that the arms “were destined for the Huthi rebels in Saada,” the stronghold of Shiite fighters in northern Yemen, AFP reported.

The vessel “came from Iran and was carrying arms and explosives, among them surface-to-air missiles SAM-2 and SAM-3,” Yemeni state news agency Saba reported, adding that the crew of eight Yemeni nationals were being questioned.

An offshoot of Shiite Islam, Zaidis, the sect to which Huthi rebels belong, are a minority in mainly Sunni Yemen but form the majority in the country’s mountainous north.

The Huthis fought six wars with central government forces, beginning in 2004, before signing a truce in February 2010. The rebellion claimed thousands of lives.

The Zaidis deny changes by Yemen that it is being backed by the Iranian regime.