An Iranian convoy, believed to be carrying weapons destined for the Houthi rebels in Yemen, turned around and is headed north towards home country, WSJ quoted as U.S. defense officials saying.
The cargo ships, accompanied by two Iranian warships, shifted course as a U.S. aircraft carrier moved
within 200 nautical miles of the flotilla.
The flotilla of nine slow-moving Iranian cargo vessels was in the area of the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden, south of Oman and still east of the Yemeni border, says another report in Reuters.
The Iranian ships, which had been moving slowly toward Yemen's capital of Aden, are no longer steaming in that direction, Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Thursday. It's too soon to tell if they are reversing course and heading back toward Iran, he said.
President Barack Obama said on Tuesday the U.S. government had warned Iran not to send weapons to Yemen that could be used to threaten shipping traffic in the Gulf.
Washington this week deployed additional warships off Yemen's coast, partly in response to the Iranian convoy, and now has nine warships in the region. The carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and its accompanying cruiser are about 200 miles (320 km) from the Iranian vessels and have been monitoring activities of the flotilla from the air.
U.S. and Saudi officials have been keeping an eye on at least nine Iranian ships suspected of carrying weapons and supplies to Houthi fighters who have taken over much of Yemen.
Saudi Arabia has led Sunni Arab countries, supported by the United States
, in carrying out more than three weeks of airstrikes targeting Shiite Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran and have seized parts of Yemen.