DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — U.S. Navy vessels seized 385 kilograms (849 pounds) of heroin in the Arabian Sea worth some $4 million, in a major bust by the international maritime operation in the region, officials said Thursday.
The USS Tempest and USS Typhoon seized the drugs hidden aboard a stateless fishing vessel plying Mideast waters, the international task force said in a statement. The seizure took place on Monday.
The Navy said the fishing vessel likely came from Iran. All nine crew members identified themselves as Iranian nationals, according to Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins, a spokesperson for the U.S. Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet.
He did not elaborate on who manufactured the drugs or their ultimate destination.
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 1,923 kilometer-long (1195 mile-long) eastern border with Afghanistan, the world’s largest producer of opium, has turned it into a key transit country for the illicit drug trade.