CTF150 (FS Nivose) Achieves Major Drugs Bus in Arabian Sea

A French warship, representing Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150) seized a huge amount of hashish from a rogue dhow on Wednesday 25 September.  The dhow had been tracked for a short period and did not respond to requests from the warship, FS NIVOSE, on her intentions.  Highly trained French sailors, in military rigid inflatable boats, conducted a boarding and in the subsequent search, over 2.5 tonnes of the illegal narcotic was discovered and subsequently destroyed.

Commodore Ed Ahlgren Royal Navy, the Commander of Combined Task Force 150, said, ”This substantial seizure clearly and unequivocally demonstrates the true value and significant impact of CMF operations on those malign actors who choose to use the sea for their unlawful purposes.  The French warship, FS NIVOSE, operating in Direct Support of the joint UK and French CTF 150 Command, has sought tenaciously those who wish to do us harm and incite instability in both this region and further afield.  Thanks to their efforts, they have disrupted a vital flow of funding to nefarious organisations and I congratulate the crew of FS NIVOSE on their success and wish them good hunting for their forthcoming operations.”

CTF 150 is a great example of how the cooperation between international maritime members of the CMF can work together to achieve the common goal of deterring or catching those who risk being a part of illegal narcotics smuggling.

Source: combinedmaritimeforces.com

Bags of Hashish onboard the captured Dhow

Pakistan Maritime Security Agency Recovers 130 Kg Heroin From Boat

Sumaira FH

The Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) intercepted a vessel on suspicion of carrying contraband items.

The boat was brought to Karachi where PMSA along with Pakistan Customs inspected the boat and recovered 130 kg of heroin from specially built compartments in the boat, said a statement. The approximate value of the recovered drugs in the international market was Rs. 1300 million.

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Source: urdupoint.com

Counter-Piracy Task Forces work together to deter piracy at sea

Warships from three nations have taken part in a counter-piracy surge operation, led by Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 in the Gulf of Aden. The operation was part of the Republic of Korea-led CTF 151’s mission to deter piracy and to contribute to wider maritime security in the region by focusing shared resources and assets over a prolonged period.

Collaboration between CTF 151, EUNAVFOR’s counter-piracy Task Force and the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force ensured maximum response and support to the operation. A Japanese Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft also took part.

The ships ROKS Daejoyeong, ESPS Navarra and JS Asagiri worked together in conducting Maritime Awareness Calls to engage with local mariners and increase their understanding of the Combined Maritime Forces and CTF 151 role.

Captain Andrew Rose, Royal Navy, Deputy Commander of CTF151, said: “Operations such as this help to build partnerships and interoperability among the various stakeholders involved in counter-piracy. It also helps to build friendships and understanding amongst mariners to increase maritime security and suppress piracy.”

The long term aims of counter-piracy stakeholders are to deter and disrupt piracy by working together; to enhance information sharing and to engage with regional partners, the merchant shipping community and local mariners.

Source: combinedmaritimeforces.com

Houthi Leader Threatens to Target Int’l Navigation

Ali Rabee

Head of the Houthis’ Supreme Political Council Mahdi al-Mashat has threatened to target the commercial navigation waterways and oil tankers in the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, saying that they possess missiles that can reach Egypt and Sudan.

Mashat affirmed that the militias would continue to target cities and airports in Saudi Arabia.

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Source: aawsat.com

Gulf crisis: US sends more troops amid tanker tension with Iran

The US military will send an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East as tensions build with Iran.

Acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the deployment was in response to what he described as “hostile behaviour” by Iranian forces.

The US Navy also shared new images it says link Iran to attacks last week on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

Washington has accused Iran of blowing holes in the vessels with mines. Iran has denied the allegations.

Tensions were further fuelled on Monday when Iran said its stockpile of low-enriched uranium would next week exceed levels set under the 2015 nuclear agreement.

It recently stepped up production in response to the US tightening sanctions. The 2015 deal, from which the US has withdrawn, curbed Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said his country did not seek to wage war with any nation and had remained “loyal” to its international obligations.

Meanwhile, on Monday night three rockets hit a military base housing US troops north of Baghdad, the Iraqi military said. The US said it was “indirect fire” and did not cause injuries.

No group has admitted responsibility for the attack, though it follows warnings by US officials of an increased threat to US interests in Iraq by Iran-backed militias.

What do we know about the extra troops?

The US troop deployment to the Middle East was announced by Mr Shanahan late on Monday.

In his statement, he said the “United States does not seek conflict with Iran” but the action was taken to “ensure the safety and welfare of our military personnel working throughout the region to protect our national interests”.

He said the military would continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments to troop levels accordingly.

Monday’s troop increase announcement comes on top of 1,500 extra announced by President Donald Trump last month.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that the US did not want war with Iran, but was nevertheless “considering a full range of options”.

What do the latest images show?

Shortly before the announcement, the Pentagon released new images including some purporting to show the remnants of an unexploded mine on a Japanese-owned oil tanker.

The photos appear to show it being removed by members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Pentagon has already released grainy video said to show the same episode.

Also seen in the latest images is apparent damage – a hole – above the waterline on the hull of the Kokuka Courageous vessel.

Another image claims to show the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps vessel shortly after it was involved in removing the limpet mine.

A Norwegian-owned tanker, the Front Altair, also reported being hit by the blasts on Thursday.

The US has implicated Iran in the latest attacks and four others outside the Strait of Hormuz in May, allegations denied by Iran.

How do other sides see the situation?

China urged the US to lower the pressure and for Iran to stick to the nuclear deal, warning of a “Pandora’s box” in the region.

Russia – another party to the nuclear accord – also called for restraint, calling US actions “truly provocative”.

Saudi Arabia also blames Iran for the attacks on the two oil tankers, while the UK said it was “almost certain” Iran was responsible.

But EU foreign ministers meeting on Monday warned against jumping to conclusions and backed UN calls for an independent investigation.

Why are there new tensions?

In 2015, Iran agreed to a landmark deal with world powers to curb its nuclear development.

It agreed to limit the enrichment of uranium, which is used to make reactor fuel but also nuclear weapons, and other measures in return for relief from sanctions.

Mr Trump abandoned the nuclear accord last year and started to re-impose sanctions.

The move has crippled Iran’s economy, which relies on oil, and Iran has responded by scaling back its nuclear commitments.

On Monday, a spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation said it was on course to exceed agreed limits on its low-enriched uranium stockpiles by 27 June.

But, Iran said there was “still time” for European countries to act by protecting Iran from reinstated US sanctions.

Source: bbc.co.uk

US Department of Defense images

Gulf of Oman tanker attacks: US says video shows Iran removing mine

The US military has released a video which it says shows Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded mine from the side of an oil tanker damaged in an attack in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday.

US officials also shared a photo of the Japanese tanker, apparently showing the unexploded mine before it was removed.

A Norwegian tanker was also damaged.

The US accused Iran of being behind the mine attacks. Iran said it “categorically rejects” the allegation.

The blasts came a month after four oil tankers were damaged in an attack off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. The US blamed Iran for that attack, but did not produce evidence. Iran also denied those accusations.

Tensions between the two countries have escalated significantly since US President Donald Trump took office in 2017. He abandoned a nuclear deal that was brokered by the Obama administration and imposed heavy sanctions on Iran.

Oil prices jumped as much as 4% after Thursday’s incident. The Gulf of Oman lies at one end of a vital shipping lane through which a third of the world’s transported oil – worth hundreds of millions of dollars – passes every year.

What we know about the explosions

According to the US account of events, US naval forces in the region received distress calls from the Norwegian-owned Front Altair at 06:12 local time (02:13 GMT) and from the Kokuka Courageous at 07:00, following explosions, and moved towards the area.

It said the USS Bainbridge observed Iranian naval boats operating in the area in the hours after the explosions, and later removing the unexploded mine from the side of the Kokuka Courageous.

The crews of both vessels were evacuated to other ships nearby. Both Iran and the US later released pictures showing rescued crew members on board their vessels.

The operator of the Kokuka Courageous, BSM Ship Management, said its crew abandoned ship after observing a fire and an unexploded mine.

The Kokuka Courageous was about 20 miles off the Iranian coast when it sent its emergency call.

The Front Altair was carry naphtha, a petrol product, from the United Arab Emirates to Taiwan. The Kokuka Courageous was carrying methanol from Saudi Arabia to Singapore.

What did the US say?

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a news conference in Washington: “It is the assessment of the United States that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks.

“This assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.”

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said his country’s “starting point” was to “believe our US allies”.

“We are taking this extremely seriously and my message to Iran is that if they have been involved it is a deeply unwise escalation which poses a real danger to the prospects of peace and stability in the region,” Mr Hunt said.

How did Iran respond?

In a statement released on Friday, the Iranian mission to the United Nations said it rejected what it called an “unfounded” and “Iranophobic” allegation by the US.

“Iran categorically rejects the US’ unfounded claim with regard to 13 June oil tanker incidents and condemns it in the strongest possible terms,” the statement said.

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Twitter accused the US of making an allegation “without a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence” and attempting to “sabotage diplomacy”.

The alleged attacks took place as Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was meeting Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a two-day visit by Mr Abe to Iran.

Source: bbc.co.uk

Video released by the US purports to show IRGC personnel removing a mine.

One Month Since 2019’s First Piracy Attack Off The Somali Coast

“The need for a strong maritime security presence in the High-Risk Area remains critical for the deterrence and prevention of future incidents and attacks.”

Rear Admiral Antonio Martorell Lacave

On 21 April, suspected pirates seized a fishing dhow off the coast of Somalia, holding 23 people hostage. In a matter of hours, the European Union’s counter-piracy force EU NAVFOR Somalia Operation Atalanta had responded to the attack. Two days later, the incident was over; Operation Atalanta had detained five suspects and released 23 hostages.

An Attack Dismantled

The incident began when five suspected pirates captured a fishing dhow off the coast of Somalia. The suspects proceeded to navigate the dhow along the coast, where they visited a pirate base camp and reinforced their crew with additional members. Next, using the captured dhow as a mother ship, the suspects attacked another fishing vessel, the FV Adria. This attack took place in the Indian Ocean, some 280 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia.

In self-preservation, FV Adria then conducted evasive manoeuvres and increased its speed. Another fishing vessel, the FV Txori Argi was also operating in the vicinity at the time and assisted the FV Adria as the suspects continued to chase her. After approximately one hour, the suspects approached both fishing vessels and attacked them with a rocket-propelled grenade. The Private Armed Security Teams (PAST) on board the FV Adria and the FV Txori Argi responded, and the suspects retreated.

That same day, EU NAVFOR dispatched its Maritime Patrol Aircrafts (MPRAs) and conducted a regional search, through which they were able to successfully identify and track the captured mother ship.

On 23 April, in collaboration with its MPRAs, EU NAVFOR’s flagship ESPS NAVARRA was able to approach, intercept and board the captured fishing vessel. With the support of the PAST and EU NAVFOR’s various active assets in the region—including the frigate ESPS NAVARRA and MPRAs German JESTER and Spanish CISNE—Operation Atalanta was able to control the situation and prevent any further imminent attacks.

“This incident clearly demonstrates that piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia have not been eradicated,” said Operation Commander Rear Admiral Antonio Martorell Lacave in an interview. “The need for a strong maritime security presence in the High-Risk Area remains critical for the deterrence and prevention of future incidents and attacks.”

Following the attack, Operation Atalanta urged the maritime industry to remain vigilant across the High-Risk Area and to comply with recommended Best Management Practises for Protection against Somalia Based Piracy, as supported by EU NAVFOR’s Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa (MSCHOA). MSCHOA last updated the Best Management Practises for public reference in 2015, at the height of piracy attacks in the High-Risk Area.

Behind The Scenes

Lesser known to the public, however, was the fact that at the time of these attacks in April, Operation Atalanta was still in the midst of an important transition. Just three weeks before the attack—the first since October of last year—Operation Atalanta officially moved from its previous Operation Headquarters (OHQ) in Northwood, U.K., to its new OHQ in Rota, Spain. MSCHOA also moved from OHQ in Northwood to Brest, France, although it remains under command of OHQ in Rota. Additionally, the operation transferred command from Major General Charlie Stickland, UK Royal Marines, to Rear Admiral Antonio Martorell Lacave, Spanish Navy.

Lesser known to the public, however, was the fact that at the time of these attacks in April, Operation Atalanta was still in the midst of an important transition. Just three weeks before the attack—the first since October of last year—Operation Atalanta officially moved from its previous Operation Headquarters (OHQ) in Northwood, U.K., to its new OHQ in Rota, Spain. MSCHOA also moved from OHQ in Northwood to Brest, France, although it remains under command of OHQ in Rota. Additionally, the operation transferred command from Major General Charlie Stickland, UK Royal Marines, to Rear Admiral Antonio Martorell Lacave, Spanish Navy.

The handover and transfer of command was a careful process that lasted nearly a year in its entirety. After all arrangements for location, staffing and training were complete, the transitional phase also involved one month of parallel operational running between Northwood and Rota. However, one would never know it by the operational fluidity that the headquarters maintained throughout the process, and continues to demonstrate today. Highly skilled staff—some from the previous OHQ in Northwood, UK and some new to Operation Atalanta—maintained near perfect continuity throughout the transition.

Operation Atalanta Commander Rear Admiral Martorell Lacave says the manner in which Operation Atalanta handled this first piracy attack in its new OHQ is representative of the commitment and responsibility each branch of the operation feels to their duty.

“I am very confident in the capabilities of the staff in all branches of EU NAVFOR’s Operation and Force Headquarters,” he said. “As we have seen with this most recent incident, we continue to provide the same level and quality of operational outputs from Rota as were previously provided in Northwood.”

Source: eunavfor.eu