Saudis say thousands of arms seized at Yemen border since 2016


Riyadh (AFP)

Saudi Arabia said Friday it has seized thousands of weapons and hundreds of smugglers illegally crossing over from war-hit Yemen in the past year, as "foreign agents" looked to stage attacks in the kingdom.

Border guard data from October 2016 to September 2017 released by the interior ministry said over 3,500 weapons and stashes of ammunition were captured.

"Most arms were seized on the Saudi-Yemeni border," the statement said, adding that the "seizures come amid attempts by foreign agents to organise terrorist attacks in kingdom".

The statement said 4,656 suspects were arrested at the frontier in connection with attempted smuggling, "over half" of them from Yemen.

More than 2,311 tonnes of qat -- a chewable narcotic leaf from Yemen that is banned in Saudi Arabia -- were also seized, it said.

The release of the data comes the morning after Saudi air defence intercepted a missile fired at its territory by Yemen's Iran-backed rebels.

Saudi Arabia has been locked in a fight with the Huthi rebels since it joined the Yemen war in 2015. The Sunni-ruled kingdom heads a military coalition allied with the internationally-recognised government of Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

Riyadh accuses its arch-rival Iran of arming Yemen's Huthis and the conflict in the country has ratcheted up tensions in the long-standing rivalry between the two regional titans.

The latest attempted missile attack on Saudi territory came after a similar launch on November 4 that saw the Saudi-led coalition tighten a blockade on Yemen and Riyadh engage in a war of words with Tehran.

Iran denied allegations it supplied weapons or was responsible for the missile attack, which Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said "could be considered an act of war".