A flotilla of nine Iranian naval and cargo ships that US officials feared was carrying arms to strife-torn Yemen sailed northeast in the direction of Iran on Friday, and this should ease US concerns, a Pentagon spokesman said.
The Iranian state news agency IRNA, however, quoted Iran’s top navy commander, Admiral Habibollah Sayyari as saying on Saturday that the flotilla was still carrying out its mission in the Gulf of Aden.
Iranian-allied Houthi militia sidelined the Yemeni central government after seizing the capital Sanaa in September. The Shi’ite Muslim Houthis have advanced southwards since, capturing more territory and drawing Saudi-led air strikes.
On Friday, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a small group of journalists traveling with him after a trip to California: “The (Iranian) ships have turned around … Obviously what their onward plans are, we don’t know.
“It is a welcome event because it does contribute to de-escalation and that’s what we’re trying to suggest to all the parties there, is the best course, and those parties include the Iranians,” Carter said.
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