Updated: 05/15/2014 11:39 | By Agence France-Presse

Australian warship in large drug bust off Somalia

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

Australian warship in large drug bust off Somalia

HMAS Darwin (top) remains close to a suspicious vessel (bottom) as members of the ship's boarding party head in in two rigid hull inflatable boats to conduct a search for illegal narcotics May 13, 2014 - by Lsa. Stephen McGreal

The 449 kilogramme (990 pound) 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-Qaeda, the Taliban and Al-Shabaab".

The drugs were hidden in 20 bags, each weighing between 20 to 25 kilogrammes 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 kilogrammes 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 Aus$289 million.

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