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Coalition Nabs Four Suspected Bandits in Gulf

Navy Newsstand

Story Number: NNS030930-11

Release Date: 9/30/2003 10:30:00 AM

By Lt. Garrett Kasper, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/ Commander 5th Fleet Public Affairs

MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- U.S. and coalition maritime interception forces (MIF) operating in the North Arabian Gulf apprehended four suspected bandits Sept. 29 after they allegedly robbed several cargo dhows.

Coalition forces maintain a significant security presence in Iraqi waters in support of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1483. Under 1483, coalition forces will provide law enforcement and security functions for the area until an Iraqi maritime security force can be established. Coalition maritime forces are supporting UNSCR 1483 in order to help facilitate the normalization of commercial shipping for Iraq, which includes the prevention and prosecution of smugglers, and to help thwart other forms of illegal activity.

At approximately 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29, several dhows made emergency radio calls, claiming that a speedboat filled with four men approached their vessels and stole items at gunpoint. USS Fletcher (DD 992) directed its SH-60B Seahawk helicopter to investigate. The helicopter, from HSL-45's "Wolfpack," was already airborne about 15 miles north of the dhows supporting another mission when the distress calls were received.

Using their forward-looking infrared radar, the San Diego-based helicopter crew quickly found a small speedboat with four persons loitering in the area. Once the boat became aware of the helicopter's presence, it accelerated and headed on a northernly course.

Fletcher dispatched its boarding team in the destroyer's small boat, which intercepted the speedboat after a brief chase. The SH-60 crew maintained constant aerial surveillance of the speedboat, and aided Fletcher's boarding team in the final moments of the chase by hovering closely over the alleged thieves.

Fletcher's boarding team inspected the speedboat, and found several brand new tires, dozens of blankets, 20 flashlights and boxes of batteries strewn about. The items found matched the description of items reported stolen by the dhows.

The Australian Navy frigate HMAS Newcastle (FFG 6) dispatched a liaison officer and a translator to assist with the questioning of the four suspects. USS Firebolt (PC 10) arrived on scene with Miami-based U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) 407, who performed a thorough search of the suspects and their vessel.

"This is a great example of how coalition teamwork, coupled with state-of-the-art technology, is neutralizing and deterring lawlessness in the North Arabian Gulf," said Capt. John Peterson, commander, Task Force 55, who leads the MIF. "We are helping to foster Iraq's reconstruction by enabling safe and legitimate commerce that empowers the Iraqi economy and people."

Coalition maritime interception operation (MIO) forces continue to operate in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility, enforcing U.N. Security Resolutions 1483, Iraqi law and maintaining maritime security.

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