Portsmouth-based HMS Westminster in £14m drugs bust

DRUGS The bales of heroin are lined up on Westminster's upper deck
DRUGS The bales of heroin are lined up on Westminster's upper deck

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THE Royal Navy has smashed a gang of terrorist drug smugglers who were caught trafficking £14m of pure heroin.

Seventy bales containing 400lbs of the class A drug were seized in a raid in the Indian Ocean.

Sailors and Royal Marines from Portsmouth-based HMS Westminster rode out in fast RHIB dinghies to intercept a suspicious fishing dhow at gunpoint.

The frigate’s Merlin helicopter circled overhead as the outnumbered smugglers gave up without a fight.

The drugs bust was hailed as ‘a dark day for terrorists’ after intelligence suggested the stuffed yellow packages were due to be traded to fund international terror groups such as Al-Qaeda.

It’s the first major success for Westminster since she went east of the Suez Canal a couple of months ago to combat criminal activity in the busy trading region.

The 20-year-old warship is operating under the banner of Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150) – one of three international naval task forces which aim to defeat terrorism, tackle piracy and stop the illegal trafficking of people and drugs.

Captain Nick Hine, who is commanding officer of the ship, said: ‘This has been a successful day for Westminster and for Combined Maritime Forces.

‘These smugglers have failed in their quest to make money by bringing misery to those addicted to this harmful substance in cities around the world.’

Royal Marines who searched the dhow found the contraband stacked up neatly below deck.

They brought 70 bales aboard Westminster where sailors laid them out on the top deck ready for disposal.

The warship pounced following a tip-off from their Australian task force partners about the fishing dhow in the Indian Ocean.

Westminster – which was called in to patrol off the coast of war-torn Libya last year – was best placed to seek out the suspicious vessel and launch her assault on the smugglers.

Commodore Jonathan Mead, who is in charge of task group CTF 150, hailed Westminster’s success as ‘a dark day for terrorists’.

He said: ‘We are talking about a street value of approximately $22m (£14m) and I am proud of the fact that CTF 150 has now effected the disposal of these substances.’

It’s the second major drug bust for the task force since £3.3m of amphetamine was seized in a raid in February.

Cdre Mead, who serves in the Royal Australian Navy, said: ‘This brings our tally of narcotics seized and destroyed to a total of 422 kilograms (926lbs).’

The destruction of the drugs would reduce the key funding lines for known terror groups by around £30m, he said.