HMAS Darwin seizes large weapons cache

This article has photo gallery Published on Department of Defence (author), ABIS Sarah Ebsworth (photographer)

Weapons seized by HMAS Darwin from a small-arms smuggler boarded approximately 170 nautical miles off the coast of Oman. (photo: ABIS Sarah Ebsworth)
Weapons seized by HMAS Darwin from a small-arms smuggler boarded approximately 170 nautical miles off the coast of Oman.

HMAS Darwin’s boarding team has uncovered and seized a large weapons cache, following a boarding of a fishing vessel during their deployment to the Middle East region as part of Operation MANITOU.

Operating under Combined Task Force 150, responsible for counter-terrorism operations within the region, Darwin intercepted the fishing vessel approximately 170 nautical miles (313 kilometres) off the coast of Oman to conduct a flag verification boarding.

After assessing the vessel to be stateless, 1989 AK-47 assault rifles, 100 rocket propelled grenade launchers, 49 PKM general purpose machine guns, 39 PKM spare barrels and 20 60mm mortar tubes were seized from the vessel that was headed towards the Somalia coast.

The weapons were seized under United Nations sanctions which authorise interdiction on the high seas of illicit weapons destined for Somalia.

Vice Admiral David Johnston, Chief of Joint Operations, said the seizure on Darwin’s first patrol of such a large haul of illicit weapons is highly significant.

"Australia worked as part of the multinational Combined Maritime Forces to discover and seize these illegal weapons.

"One of the key reasons HMAS Darwin is deployed to the region is to contribute to global security and counter international terrorism," Vice Admiral Johnston said.

"Darwin’s successful boarding and subsequent seizure of the weapons concealed under fishing nets highlights the need to remain vigilant in the region."

Operation MANITOU is the Australian Government's contribution to the multinational Combined Maritime Forces' efforts to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the region.

Darwin is assigned to the Australian-led Combined Task Force 150 as part of a multinational effort to prevent terrorism, piracy and drug smuggling, encourage regional cooperation and promote a secure maritime environment in the Middle East and off the north east coast of Africa. Australia’s contribution demonstrates an ongoing commitment to making contributions to coalition operations that support Australia’s interests in a rules-based global order.

This is Darwin’s seventh deployment to the Middle East and is the 62nd rotation of a Royal Australian Navyvessel in the region since 1990.