For the third time in recent weeks, international naval forces operating in the waters of the Arabian Sea seized a shipment of illicit arms March 28, the US Navy informed.
Just over the past month, the joint maritime forces under the Combined Task Force (CTF150) seized two cargoes containing weaponry destined for Somalia.
According to the United States, the contraband originated in Iran and was likely bound for Houthi insurgents in Yemen.
The U.S. Navy Coastal Patrol ship USS Sirocco, operating as part of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, intercepted and seized the shipment of weapons hidden aboard a small, stateless dhow. The illicit cargo included 1,500 AK-47s, 200 RPG launchers and 21.50 caliber machine guns.
The dhow and its crew were allowed to depart once the illicit weapons were seized, the navy said.
As of April the UK took over the reins of a Gulf joint maritime force to deter piracy, tackle terrorism, and disrupt smuggling.
The Combined Task Force (CTF150), which covers two million square miles, including the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman, which is a vital artery of world trade, is working to counter attacks or moving personnel, weapons or income generating narcotics, targeting groups such as Daesh.
CTF150 and the Royal Australian Navy are also working to foster ties with East African counterparts on countering narcotics operations and weapons smuggling.
Sirocco in the Persian Gulf, April 2005 Image: US Navy
Strengthening of anti-piracy efforts in the region is seen as a much needed move taking into account the increasing number of attacks on commercial ships, especially in Nigerian waters.
The number one concern is the ramping up of the kidnappings of ships’ crew over the last six months as pirates abduct crews for ransom as a means of financing.
Just in March, two attacks in Nigerian waters have been reported that resulted in kidnapping of at least nine sailors.