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US warship heads to Yemeni waters in security move

US Navy officials have said a warship is heading toward the waters off Yemen to intercept any Iranian vessels transporting weapons for Houthi rebels. The Pentagon has denied that the ships are on such a mission.

On Monday, two US Navy officials said the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier would join other ships in the waters off Yemen. The US Navy beefed up its presence in the Gulf of Aden and the southern Arabian Sea amid reports that a convoy of Iranian ships might be headed toward Yemen - possibly transporting arms for the Houthi rebels.

Later on Monday, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said the US Navy had sent an aircraft carrier and a guided-missile cruiser into the waters near Yemen to conduct maritime security operations. However, he denied that the vessels were on a mission to intercept Iranian arms shipments.

The United States has provided logistical and intelligence support to a Saudi-led coalition launching airstrikes against the Houthis. The airstrikes began at the end of March.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest would not comment specifically on any movements in Yemeni waters, but said US officials had concerns that Iran was supporting Houthi rebels: "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."

Earlier on Monday, an airstrike in the Houthi-controlled capital, Sanaa, triggered a big explosion that killed at least 28 people and left 300 wounded. The blast hit a missile base on Faj Attan mountain beside the Hadda district, home to the presidential palace and many embassies. Residents said it was the largest explosion in more than three weeks of bombing by the Saudi-led coalition.

das/mkg (AP, Reuters)

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