US Navy destroyer seizes illicit weapons off Somalia

Photo: US Navy/Petty Officer 3rd Class Louis Thompson Staats IV

The US Navy guided missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill seized illicit shipments of weapons and weapons components from two stateless dhows during a maritime security operation in international waters of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia on February 11 and 12.

Churchill‘s visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) team and embarked joint service Advanced Interdiction Team (AIT) discovered the illicit cargo during a flag verification boarding conducted in accordance with international law and in international waters.

The cache of weapons consisted of thousands of AK-47 assault rifles, light machine guns, heavy sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and crew-served weapons. Other weapon components included barrels, stocks, optical scopes, and weapon systems.

The original source of the weapons has not yet been identified.

Churchill located the dhows and provided more than 40 hours of overwatch and security for the ship and its boarding teams throughout the two-day operation.

The dhow crews were provided food and water before being released.

The seizure of the illicit weapons by Churchill was conducted as part of the US Navy’s regular maritime security operations in the region. These routine patrols are performed to ensure the free flow of commerce for legitimate traffic and to disrupt the transport of illicit cargo that often funds terrorism and unlawful activity.

Commander Timothy Shanley, Churchill‘s commanding officer, said the successful seizure was carried out by a joint team of US Navy, US Coast Guard, and US Army personnel.

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