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Royal Navy heads multi-nation task force in drugs bust

Royal Navy heads multi-nation task force in drugs bust
A Royal Navy-led operation seized over a tonne of heroin being transported across the Indian Ocean to East Africa.

Operation Shirikisho, which means Unity in Swahili, was an operation planned and executed by the UK-led Combined Task Force (CTF) 150.

It involved a UK command team in Bahrain, and out at sea, an Australian frigate, a French ship and French Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft (MPRA).

Their task was to detect and intercept vessels trafficking drugs.

We will continue to tackle this menace whenever, and wherever we can.

Commodore Guy Robinson RN

HMAS Darwin’s boarding team approached and boarded a 20m fishing dhow and discovered evidence that she was carrying an illicit cargo of heroin.

Conducting a rigorous search over eight-and-a-half hours, she uncovered 380kg of heroin, packed in bags.

Then, 12 hours later, her team boarded another suspect dhow.  Several hours of searching followed and 512kg of drugs was found. 

A third suspect dhow was boarded and another 60kg discovered, taking the total to 952 kg of heroin.

The French Navy, which had played a crucial role by providing air surveillance for the operation, also had success at sea.

French Ship (FS) Nivose, which had been patrolling off the coast of East Africa alongside her Australian opposite number, sent a boarding team to search a dhow, finding 130kg of heroin.

The airborne surveillance was provided by a French Falcon 50, which was supporting Operation Shirikisho throughout May.

CTF 150 is part of Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), a multi-national naval partnership, which is designed to promote security, stability, and prosperity in the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, and the Gulf region, an area comprising 3.2 million square miles.

CTF 150’s principal mission is to disrupt terrorist organisations and their unlawful activities by restricting freedom of manoeuvre at sea; including tackling the narcotics trafficking that funds terrorist activities.

Commander of CTF 150 Commodore Guy Robinson said: “This has been a highly successful operation to prevent a very significant amount of heroin from reaching the shores of Europe.

“It is also an excellent example of the impressive co-operation across CMF contributing-nations, at sea, in the air and ashore. 

“We will continue to tackle this menace whenever, and wherever we can.”

Capt John Craig, the Deputy Commander of CTF 150, added: "In addition to the successful seizure of such a large amount of drugs, operations like Shirikisho help us refine our tactical skills as we coordinate extensive air searches over enormous areas of ocean to locate traffickers in very small dhows.

“The opportunity to work with French and Australian ships and aircraft also improves our collective understanding of each other's operating capabilities, to make sure that we are as prepared as we can be for operations in the future.

“Multi-national co-operation has been vital to the success of the operation.”

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