Page last updated at 08:08 GMT, Sunday, 13 July 2008 09:08 UK

Navy crews seize tonnes of drugs

HMS Montrose and drugs haul
The drugs may have been intended to fund Taliban operations

Royal Navy warships have been involved in the successful seizure of 23 tonnes of illegal drugs in the Gulf.

The navy said it believed the sale of the narcotics could have been intended to help fund Taleban fighters in Afghanistan.

The Plymouth-based frigates HMS Chatham and Montrose and the Portsmouth-based destroyer HMS Edinburgh carried out the interceptions over five months.

Drugs seized included hashish, cocaine, opiates and amphetamines.

The Royal Navy said sailors and Royal Marines were involved in stopping and searching vessels along the so-called "hash highway" in the gulf.

They were supported by Sea King helicopters and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary helicopter ship Argus.

We realised something wasn't right when the crew said they had been fishing for five days, but there was only a handful of fish in the freezer
Lt Tom Phillips, HMS Chatham

Commodore Keith Winstanley, the commander of Royal Navy forces in the region said: "The scourge of illegal drugs are one of the gravest threats to the long term security of Afghanistan, and a vital source of funding for the Taleban warlords.

"Our mission in Afghanistan is one of absolute importance and by seizing these drugs we have dealt a significant blow to the illegal trade."

On one occasion a boarding party from HMS Chatham seized six tonnes of drugs from a single vessel.

Boarding party from HMS Chatham
Sailors from HMS Chatham seized six tonnes of drugs from one fishing vessel

Boarding officer Lieutenant Tom Philips said: "We realised something wasn't right when the crew said they had been fishing for 5 days but there were only a handful of fish in the freezer.

"We were working in pretty horrible conditions. When you are crawling through tight compartments in 50 degree heat and surrounded by rats and cockroaches, you have to remain pretty focused."

The drugs seizures were a joint operation with Pakistani, French and Canadian forces.




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