A naval task force led by France and Britain has seized drugs worth an estimated £400 million (€436 million) from smugglers in the Gulf and Indian Ocean.
The five-month multinational operation resulted in the recovery of drugs weighing 1.75 tonnes, including 265kgs of heroin and 455kgs of hashish.
Operation Southern Surge, mounted by Combined Task Force 150 (CTF150), which also includes warships from Australia and the US, launched eight raids on drug trafficking gangs whose profits were thought to have been funding terrorism in the region.
As well as targeting drug traffickers, CTF150 is also responsible for tracking down weapons smugglers and disrupting terror-related maritime activity in the more than three million square miles of sea it polices, which includes the Suez Canal.
Britain and France have recently passed command of the task force to the Pakistan navy, having taken over operations from the Canadian navy in April.
“The success of this joint task force with our French allies is a demonstration of Britain’s firm commitment to global maritime security and our ability to work with European allies to tackle the threat from drug smuggling,” UK Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon commented.
“The money made from these nefarious criminal activities fund the terrorists who threaten us at home and abroad. As we leave the EU we will continue to work alongside our allies to tackle smuggling in the region and maintain the free flow of shipping.”
Royal Navy Captain Paul Pitcher, Deputy Commander of Combined Task Force 150, said: “The deployment of a combined French-UK staff has successfully demonstrated French-UK naval integration in an operational maritime environment.
“The ships under our command have enjoyed considerable success in seizing illegal drugs at sea, as well as providing naval presence to reassure the shipping community in and around the strategic chokepoint of the Bab Al Mandeb Strait.”
At the end of last month, Indian customs officers seized 1,500kgs of heroin worth almost $550 million (€467 million) from a boat off the coast of the western state of Gujarat.
An Indian Navy spokesman described the haul as “the largest single haul of narcotics to date”.
Back in October 2015, the Australian Navy destroyed 427kgs of heroin it seized from a fishing boat travelling across the Indian Ocean.
Thanks to its proximity to Afghanistan, which is the world’s largest producer of opium, India is a major transit hub for drug smugglers, and has a major problem with heroin use in the northern state of Punjab.
According to a 2015 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report, it has become more common for large shipments for heroin from Afghanistan to be shipped across the Indian Ocean and into Southern Africa, from where it is often smuggled on to Europe.