CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — An Australian warship seized a large weapons cache from a fishing boat headed for Somalia, officials said.
The HMAS Darwin, a guided missile frigate, was carrying out counterterrorism operations in the Middle East when it intercepted a fishing boat 300 kilometers (190 miles) from Oman to conduct a flag verification boarding, the Defense Department said in a statement.
After assessing the boat to be stateless, the boarding team found 1,989 AK-47 assault rifles, 100 rocket propelled grenade launchers, 49 PKM general purpose machine guns, 39 PKM spare barrels and 20 60mm mortar tubes, it said. The boat was headed toward the Somalia coast, it said.
The weapons were seized under United Nations sanctions which authorize interdiction on the high seas of illicit weapons destined for Somalia, the statement said.
Vice Admiral David Johnston, Australian Chief of Joint Operations, said the seizure on Darwin's first patrol of such a large haul of illicit weapons was "highly significant."
The Defense Department statement did not say where the weapons and fishing boat crew were from or when the interception occurred. The statement also did not say what happened to the fishing boat crew. The department did not immediately respond to questions on Tuesday.
The Darwin is part of the Combined Maritime Forces, a multi-national naval coalition dedicated to promoting security and prosperity across international waters in the Middle East.