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CENTCOM

NEWS RELEASE
HEADQUARTERS UNITED STATES CENTRAL COMMAND
7115 South Boundary Boulevard
MacDill AFB, Fla. 33621-5101
Phone: (813) 827-5894; FAX: (813) 827-2211; DSN 651-5894

December 20, 2003
Release Number: 03-12-52


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


COALITION FORCES MAKE SECOND MAJOR DRUG SEIZURE IN FIVE DAYS

Aboard USS Enterprise - Five days after nearly 10 million dollars worth of hashish was found aboard a dhow in the Arabian Gulf, coalition forces have made another significant drug interception. Intelligence gained from the Dec. 15 raid by USS Decatur (DDG 73) led the U.S. Navy to board two dhows in the North Arabian Sea, this time discovering what is believed to be pure heroin and methamphetamines.

A P-3K maritime patrol aircraft from the Royal New Zealand Air Force initially located the two suspect dhows on Dec. 18. New Zealand and coalition maritime patrol aircraft from Australia, United Kingdom and the U.S. continuously tracked the dhows for the next 48 hours.

While the dhows were being tracked from the air, the Aegis guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) was directed by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command to intercept the dhows.

With a British Royal Air Force Nimrod patrolling overhead, Philippine Sea intercepted the two dhows believed to be operating together in the North Arabian Sea at dawn on Dec. 20. One of Philippine Sea's search teams boarded the first dhow and found approximately 150 pounds of methamphetamines.

Meanwhile, the second dhow attempted to outrun the interception forces. A Navy P-3C Orion from patrol squadron VP 47 videotaped the crew of the second dhow throwing approximately 200 bags overboard while they fled. The second dhow was caught and boarded by another Philippine Sea boarding team. Once aboard the second dhow, Sailors discovered one 50-pound bag and one 35-pound bag of a substance that is believed to be pure heroin. Depending on its quality, pure heroin can cost between $18,000 and $86,000 per pound.

Sailors from Philippine Sea now control both dhows while the investigation continues. The 14 crewmen from the first dhow and seven crewmen from the second dhow are all in U.S. Navy custody for further screening and legal processing. Final disposition of the two dhows is pending.

The boardings were conducted as part of coalition forces Expanded Maritime Interception Operations designed to deny use of the seas by terrorists and smugglers throughout the Fifth Fleet area of responsibility.

"Coming so quick on the heels of our earlier drug dhow capture, this operation tells me that our intelligence coordination with the brave sailors conducting these MIO boardings are right on the money," said Rear Adm. Jim Stavridis, Commander, Enterprise Aircraft Carrier Strike Group. "We are investigating potential Al-Qaida connections to these operations."

"The success of this operation is a true testament to the strength of coalition teamwork in the global war on terrorism," said Rear Adm. Kenneth W. Deutsch, Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Force Fifth Fleet, which is responsible for the operation of all coalition maritime patrol aircraft in the region.

The boarding was coordinated by Commander, Destroyer Squadron 18, embarked in the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65), operating in the Arabian Gulf. USS Philippine Sea is assigned to the USS Enterprise Carrier Strike Group and is home-ported at Naval Station Mayport, Fla. The Golden Swordsmen of VP-47 are on a regularly scheduled deployment to the CENTCOM area of responsibility and are stationed at Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

For further questions, please contact NAVCENT /FIFTH Fleet Public Affairs Office at 011-973-17-724-027 or pao@cusnc.navy.mil.


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