Security

Drugs worth $7 million seized in Indian Ocean operations

By Al-Mashareq

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Boarding teams from the French frigate FS Nivôse on the Arabian Sea approach a suspicious dhow leading to the capture of 677kg of methamphetamine and heroin on March 19. [Combined Maritime Forces]

A French frigate operating as part of Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150), a Bahrain-based multinational coalition naval task force, has seized illegal drugs worth an estimated $7 million in two recent counter-narcotics operations.

FS Languedoc, operating in support of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), on September 27 seized more than 3.6 tonnes of illegal drugs from a dhow during an operation on the Indian Ocean, the CMF said.

Hashish valued at $1.86 million was seized during the operation.

CTF-150, which has a rotating leadership and is currently under the command of the Royal New Zealand Navy, is one of three task forces of the CMF, a multinational maritime partnership of 34 nations.

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FS Languedoc, operating in support of the Combined Maritime Forces, on September 27 seized more than 3.6 tonnes of illegal drugs from a dhow during an operation on the Indian Ocean. [French Ministry of Armed Forces]

The CMF upholds international rules-based order by countering illicit non-state actors on the high seas and promoting security, stability and prosperity across approximately 3.2 million square miles of international waters.

This includes some of the world's most important shipping lanes.

"For the second time in a week, Languedoc has demonstrated expertise and professionalism in seizing a large volume of narcotics that would have otherwise been destined for market," said CTF-150 commander Capt. Brendon Clark.

A week earlier, on September 20, FS Languedoc intercepted and searched another vessel suspected of smuggling, the CMF said.

This time, it seized more than 1.5 tonnes of hashish and 166kg of methamphetamine, with a combined value of more than $5.2 million.

Funds from the sale of the drugs would have been used "to finance terrorism and criminal activity", said Clark, of the Royal New Zealand Navy.

String of counter-narcotics operations

CTF-150's mission is to disrupt criminal and terrorist organisations and their related illicit activities, including the movement of personnel, weapons, narcotics and charcoal.

The maritime task force conducts security operations outside the Arabian Gulf to ensure legitimate commercial shipping transits the region freely.

CTF-150 has conducted a string of operations on the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean in recent months, seizing an estimated $30 million of various kinds of illegal drugs between October 2020 and March 2021 alone.

In March, French Marine Nationale ships made five seizures of illicit drugs in just six days, while participating in a counter-narcotics focused operation under the command of CTF-150 in the Arabian Sea.

A total of 8,578kg of hashish, methamphetamine and heroin were seized, which have a combined estimated wholesale value of more than $16.66 million, CMF said.

In February, UK Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose carried out two successful interdictions of illicit drugs on the Arabian Sea with an estimated combined wholesale value of over $15 million.

The HMS Montrose's boarding team seized more than 2.6 tonnes of illicit drugs from the vessels in back-to-back operations during a counter-narcotics patrol, including "hundreds of bags and sacks of hashish, heroin and methamphetamine", the CMF said.

The team needed more than 10 hours to recover them all, the team leader said.

The previous month, on January 30, US Navy cruiser USS Philippine Sea intercepted a stateless dhow on the northern Arabian Sea carrying a shipment of some 275kg of suspected heroin, the CMF said.

Seven bags of suspected narcotics were seized, tested and found to contain heroin worth an estimated $2.9 million at wholesale.

Since July 15, a tip-line phone number has accepted reports of smuggling information over WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram to +973 3914 5845.

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