Rewards of up to $100,000 will be provided for information that leads to the detection of illegal maritime activity and seizure of illicit cargo in waters across the Middle East, the US Navy announced Tuesday (July 5).
The Bahrain-based US Naval Forces Central Command (US NAVCENT) said it will for the first time begin rewarding individuals for voluntarily providing information as part of a new programme.
"Launching this programme represents another example of our commitment to this region and its security," said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of US NAVCENT, the US Navy's 5th Fleet and the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF).
"This also enhances our vigilance and supports counterterrorism efforts, which are essential to safeguarding the free flow of commerce," he said.
US NAVCENT said it could potentially offer a maximum of $100,000 for information that supports counterterrorism operations or leads US naval forces to successfully seize illicit cargo such as illegal weapons or narcotics.
Rewards also could be in-kind items such as boats, vehicles, food or equipment.
Tips can be reported by calling +973 3914-5845 or by visiting the website https://dodrewardsprogram.net. For additional information on how to report a tip or reward eligibility criteria, go to https://www.cusnc.navy.mil/DoD-RP/
Increased patrols in regional waters
Last year, illicit cargo seizures in the Middle East skyrocketed after US and multinational forces increased patrols in the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea.
The CMF, a 34-nation naval coalition which patrols 3.2 million square miles of international waters and some of the world's most important shipping lanes, said it seized more than 67 tonnes of drugs in 2021.
The drugs, worth more than $189 million, were seized in operations near the Arabian Gulf, a record for the CMF's Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150).
The haul, including 6,550kg of heroin, 4,052kg of methamphetamine and 56,834 kg of hashish from unspecified countries around the region, exceeded the past four years combined, CMF spokesman Tim Hawkins said at the time.
The CMF in April launched a new task force to patrol the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. CTF 153 joined CTF 150, which focuses on maritime security, and CTF 151 and CTF 152, which focus on counter piracy and Gulf maritime security.
In January, a United Nations report concluded that thousands of rocket launchers, machine guns, sniper rifles and other weapons seized in the Arabian Sea by the US Navy in recent months likely originated from a single port in Iran.
In December, US Navy ships seized around 1,400 AK-47 assault rifles and 226,600 rounds of ammunition from a stateless fishing vessel in the north Arabian Sea.
"The stateless vessel was assessed to have originated in Iran and transited international waters along a route historically used to traffic weapons unlawfully to the Houthis in Yemen," it said.
Since September 2015, international naval forces have carried out at least 12 maritime interdictions of Iranian weapon shipments believed to have been destined for the Houthis in Yemen.
Reward money being offered for tips on drones
US Central Command (CENTCOM) is also actively seeking tips and information from the public about the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones.
Drones manufactured in Iran, and variants of Iranian UAVs made by the Islamic Republic's proxies, are being used more and more often to cause chaos and destruction in the region.
CENTCOM's Department of Defence Rewards Programme rewards individuals who share useful, verifiable and timely tips on terror group operations, drone threats, lone wolf attacks against US forces and weapons caches.
The programme pays monetary rewards of up to $5 million to eligible persons who provide information that protects US or allied forces and enables them to combat terrorism.
Tips on drones are of high priority and can be submitted in several languages via the reward website found here.