U.S. Navy Seizes $4M in Heroin From Iranian-Manned Fishing Vessel With Unknown Destination

The U.S. Navy seized about 849 pounds of heroin worth roughly $4 million from an Iranian-manned vessel in the Arabian Sea, officials announced Thursday. The major drug bust was carried out Monday by the USS Tempest and USS Typhoon vessels working as part of an international naval task force.

Commander Timothy Hawkins, a spokesperson for the U.S. Navy's Mideast-based 5th Fleet, did not say where the drugs were heading or who manufactured them.

U.S. Coast Guard personnel who were aboard the two USS vessels discovered the illegal drugs while carrying out a flag verification boarding of the stateless fishing vessel, as is customary with international law. The U.S. forces, who were part of the Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, destroyed the confiscated drugs at sea, according to a release from Combined Maritime Forces.

CTF 150 is one of three task forces that work under the larger Combined Maritime Forces.

"This latest seizure is a demonstration that CTF 150 and assigned surface and air assets are ready to conduct interdiction operations 365 days a year," said Royal New Zealand Navy Captain Brendon Clark, commander of CTF 150.

All nine of the stateless fishing vessel's crew members identified themselves as Iranian nationals, Hawkins said. The Navy believes that the vessel also came from Iran.

The crew and vessel were released after the U.S. Navy seized the illegal drugs, the release said.

"This interdiction highlights the incredible work of our ships and Sailors and serves as a reminder of the value in having forward-deployed naval forces on scene and ready," said Lieutenant Commander Jordan Bradford, the USS Typhoon's commanding officer.

Heroin Shipment Seized
The U.S. Navy seized about 849 pounds of heroin worth roughly $4 million from an Iranian-manned vessel in the Arabian Sea, officials announced Thursday, in a major drug bust carried out by the USS Tempest and USS Typhoon vessels working as part of an international naval task force. Above, U.S. service members approach a stateless dhow vessel transiting international waters in the Arabian Sea on Monday, December 27. U.S. Navy

As the task force ramps up regional patrols, it has confiscated illegal drugs worth over $193 million during operations at sea this year—more than the amount of drugs seized in the last four years combined, its statement said.

Heroin is trafficked to the Middle East and even Europe by land from Iran and Afghanistan through well-worn land routes in the Balkans, Southern Caucasus mountains or Saudi Arabia, according to last year's U.N. Global Synthetic Drugs Assessment. Smugglers from Iran have increasingly taken to sea to bring heroin into South Asia, the report added, with Iranian and Pakistani sailors often arrested near Sri Lanka.

Iran's porous 1,195-mile (1,923-kilometer) eastern border with Afghanistan, the world's largest producer of opium, has turned it into a key transit country for the illicit drug trade.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Navy Destroys Heroin Shipment
U.S. Coast Guard personnel who were aboard two USS vessels discovered a heroin shipment while carrying out a flag verification boarding of a stateless fishing vessel. The U.S. forces, who were part of the Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, destroyed the confiscated drugs at sea. Above, U.S. service members inventory the illicit shipment of drugs while aboard a dhow in the Arabian Sea on Monday, December 27. U.S. Navy