US beefing up naval presence off Yemen amid rising regional tensions

USS Theodore Roosevelt (Reuters/Mark Wessels)
The US Navy has sent two warships to Yemeni waters to conduct ‘maritime security operations.’ However, Washington denies they have been sent to intercept an alleged Iranian naval convoy carrying weapons for Houthi anti-government forces.

The Pentagon said in a statement on Monday that the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and its escort cruiser USS Normandy have transited from the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea on April 19.

"Theodore Roosevelt and Normandy have joined other US forces conducting maritime security operations in the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb and the Southern Red Sea," thestatementreads.

It cited the "current instability in Yemen" as the reason for the move. A spokesman for the Pentagon, Colonel Steve Warren denied reports that the ships were on a mission to intercept Iranian arms shipments to Yemeni Houthi rebels.

A US Navy source had earlier said there were around nine US ships off Yemen’s coast, according to AP. This followed a report in The Hill newspaper citing Pentagon officials that Iran had sent nine warships to towards Yemen.

They added that some of the Iranian vessels were allegedly carrying weapons to supply the Houthi rebels. Tehran has not commented on the accusations, though it did say their ships were in the region to help the fight against piracy.

A Saudi-led coalition has already imposed a naval blockade around the country, in addition to its bombing campaign, as it seeks to fight back against Shia Houthi rebels.

The latest airstrikes hit a missile base in the suburbs of the Yemani capital Sanaa, killing at least 25 people and wounding almost 400.

READ MORE: 25 killed, almost 400 wounded in missile base bombing in Yemen