You think those international forces patrolling the coast of Somalia are supposed to be protecting the sea lanes from pirates, right? Well, that’s not all they’re doing. In the latest operation completed on October 6, an Australian frigate, the HMAS Toowoomba, backed up by a New Zealand search plane trailed a dhow — a type of sailboat traditionally used by Arab merchants — from the Arabian Sea to the Horn of Africa.
After four days, the Australian crew was able to board the dhow, and a search turned up 5.59 metric tons of hashish. The operation was conducted under the command of Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150), officially established to fight piracy. CTF-150 is part of the Combined Maritime Forces, which are also policing the waters of the Persian Gulf — ostensibly against terrorist infiltration, but far more often against hashish smuggling. The recent haul was its first successful counter-narcotics operation since Pakistan’s navy took command of CTF-150 in August. Task Force head Commodore Sajid Mahmood said he was “incredibly proud” of the sailors and airmen involved in the bust. “CTF-150 has a long history of disrupting narcotics trafficking in the region,” he enthused. “Keep up the good work!”
On September 18, the Coalition Naval Forces, another such international effort that patrols the Indian Ocean, announced the seizure of 5.36 metric tons of hashish in the Arabian Sea, which they boasted was the biggest hashish bust of the year worldwide — although smaller than the haul off Somalia just two weeks later. The operation resulted in the arrest of 14 suspects by the Coalition, which similarly tracked the boat after Dubai authorities received a tip about the hash haul.