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Australian warship seizes heroin in large drug bust close to Somalia

SYDNEY -- An Australian warship has seized heroin with an estimated street value of AU$132 million (US$123 million) off the coast of Somalia, the defense department said Thursday.

The 449 kilogram haul was found on a dhow, a type of sailing vessel, intercepted by HMAS Darwin while patrolling the Indian Ocean some 40 nautical miles off Somalia's east coast.

The ship's commander Terry Morrison said the seizure “removed a major source of funding for terrorist and criminal networks which included al-Qaida, the Taliban and Al-Shabaab.”

The drugs were hidden in 20 bags, each weighing between 20 to 25 kilograms each.

HMAS Darwin is part of Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), a naval partnership involving 30 nations that patrols 2.5 million square miles of international waters.

The Australian ship enforces maritime security with a focus on terrorist activity in the Middle East and Indian Ocean regions as part of the British-led Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, which operates under the CMF.

The bust, the CMF's seventh “significant seizure” this year, came three weeks after the Australian and British navies jointly found 1,032 kilograms of heroin — their largest-ever haul — on a dhow off the coast of east Africa near Kenya and Tanzania.

The drugs were estimated to have a street value of AU$289 million.

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This photo taken on Tuesday, May 13 and released by Australian Defense on Thursday, May 15 shows two rigid-hull inflatable boats from HMAS Darwin getting ready to board a suspicious vessel to conduct a search for illegal narcotics. (AFP)

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