TERRORIST funding has been dealt a second crippling blow by a Portsmouth warship after it seized £1.6m of narcotics – its second major drugs bust in two weeks.
HMS Dragon made the seizure less than two weeks after bagging three tonnes of cannabis on the so-called ‘hash highway’.
This time, the Type 45 destroyer pounced on a dhow to uncover a half-tonne haul of heroin and hashish and 9kg of crystal meth.
The ship was patrolling the known smuggling route between the Makran Coast of Iran and Pakistan and East Africa – nicknamed the ‘smack track’ because of the heroin trafficked – when Lieutenant Jonathan Bennett, one of the officers of the watch on Dragon’s bridge, spied a dhow far from the usual shipping lanes at the weekend.
The haul is estimated to be worth $2m locally (£1.6m) – and far more on the streets of the UK had it reached here. Any money raised from the sales would have been ploughed back into terrorist or criminal networks in the region.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: ‘Once again, HMS Dragon has demonstrated the strength, capability and global reach of our Royal Navy.
‘I am incredibly proud of her crew as they confirm the UK’s crucial role in tackling the illegal and destructive global drugs trade.’
The bust came hot on the heels of a week-long visit to Goa for annual exercises with the Indian Navy and, before that, the biggest war games in Oman since 2001, plus the first chance for a British warship to work with F-35 Lightning stealth fighters on operations, courtesy of the USS Essex.
Lt Bennett said: ‘The dhow looked suspicious so we sent the boarding teams in the sea boats to talk to the crew.
‘Their answers raised our suspicions further, and so we commenced the boarding.
‘Following a search by our trained teams we were able to locate and recover these narcotics, stopping their onward likely travel into Europe and the United Kingdom, as well as disrupting the funding of illicit activity.’
Leading Seamen Adam Parker, one of the ship’s sea boat crew, was responsible for ferrying the boarding team – a mixture of Royal Marines Commandos to provide protection and Royal Navy sailors to carry out the search – across to the dhow. They transported the haul of drugs, which were later destroyed, back to HMS Dragon.
‘Having started the day preparing for our next port visit, we very quickly had to refocus and support the boarding operations in what became a long, but very rewarding day,’ he said.
‘Conducting sea boat operations over 12 hours places a large demand on our team but from the training received and experience gained whilst deployed we were able to achieve this successfully.’
Commander Michael Carter Quinn, the Dragon’s commanding officer, said: ‘To achieve this seizure, so swiftly after the last, and alongside having been part of a complex warfighting exercise only a few days ago, is demonstration of the hard work and professionalism of all the Dragons on board.
‘It serves to highlight the breadth of skills available on board HMS Dragon and the rich variety of tasks being delivered by Royal Naval Ships deployed across the globe.’
HMS Dragon will be at sea over the Christmas period as she continues to patrol some of the 2.5m square miles of water covered by the international Combined Task Force 150, which is dedicated to tackling terrorist activity on the high seas.