18th February, 2014
Australian and Pakistani navy ships have seized almost two tonnes of cannabis resin in a drug bust off Oman and the east African coast that officers described Tuesday as a setback for extremist groups.
HMAS Melbourne and Pakistan’s PNS Alamgir joined forces to intercept and board a dhow east of Oman’s Masriah Island, where they found 1,951 kilograms (4,290 pounds) of cannabis resin hidden in a secret compartment in its fishing hold.
The latest drug smuggling dhow was identified by a Pakistan Navy vessel before the Melbourne was called in to conduct the bust.
The ship deployed a high-speed Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) and a heavily armed boarding party to get control of the vessel and her illegal cargo.
Estimating the haul to have a street value of US$102 million, Melbourne commander Brian Schlegel said its seizure would help staunch funds going to extremist groups that rely on illegal drug shipments for income.
“The 62 bags contain cannabis resin bricks, almost 4,000 bricks in total. Each brick is more than enough to buy an AK-47 or IED (improvised explosive device) components,” said Schlegel.
“Removing the funding that flows from the sale of these drugs has a direct impact on a terrorist organisation’s ability to buy weapons in the future.”
The Melbourne is in the Indian Ocean on global anti-piracy operations and has intercepted nine suspected pirate vessels since leaving Australia in August 2013.
During its mission, it has seized 543 kilograms of heroin estimated to be worth in excess of US$1 billion, including a 353 kilogram bust off the coast of Tanzania earlier this month.
.AFP and news.com.au