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US Coast Guard seizes $33M in drugs from fishing boat in Middle East

Coast Guard Cutter Kimball crew offloads drugs in San Diego (Petty Officer 3rd Class Alex Gray/Coast Guard)
February 27, 2023

A U.S. Coast Guard vessel stopped a vessel carrying over $33 million in drugs in the Gulf of Oman, adding to more than $1 billion in narcotics stopped in the Middle East since 2021.

USCGC cutter Emlen Tunnell patrolling international waters last month captured the fishing vessel carrying hashish and methamphetamines, a U.S. Naval Forces Central Command statement said.

“This is just the beginning of our work in delivering maritime security operations in the region to stop illicit activities and drug smuggling,” said U.K. Royal Navy Capt. James Byron, the Combined Maritime Forces CTF 150 commander. “This comes as a result of a valued partnership between CTF 150 and all partner nations in Combined Maritime Forces.”

The contents of the drugs seized from the fishing vessel included 4,000 kilograms of hashish and 512 kilograms of methamphetamine.

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“Under Al-Mutairi’s leadership, CTF 150 ships logged more than 10,000 hours on regional patrols and intercepted six shipments of illegal drugs that included opium, heroin, hashish and amphetamines,” the statement read. “The combined estimated value of the seized drugs totaled more than $250 million.”

The task force focuses on illegal trafficking, terrorism and smuggling, with the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) covering 3.2 million square miles of international waters with the help of 33 member nations.

“The 33 nations that comprise CMF are not bound by either a political or military mandate,” U.S. Naval Forces Central Command says on its website.

“CMF is a flexible organization. Contributions can vary from the provision of a liaison officer at CMF HQ in Bahrain to the supply of warships or support vessels in task forces, and maritime reconnaissance aircraft based on land. We can also call on warships not explicitly assigned to CMF to give associated support, which is assistance they can offer if they have the time and capacity to do so whilst undertaking national tasking,” it adds.

The 5th Fleet patrols the Strait of Hormuz. The fleet’s region also stretches to the Red Sea up to the Suez Canal, and also covers the Bab el-Mandeb Strait off Yemen, according to The Arab Weekly.

In addition to Coast Guard vessels, the 5th Fleet operated unmanned drones in the region with American allies. The Fleet has already reached half its goal to operate 100 drones in the area, according to the report.