Terrorism: February 18, 2002


A Canadian Navy Frigate and the USS Leyte Gulf sank a wooden dhow carrying a $25 million two-ton drug shipment in international waters off Pakistan's western coast on 13 February. 

The HMCS Toronto came across the dhow in the morning and two unidentified crewmen promptly took off in a rubber dinghy that the dhow had been towing. The abandoned ship was circling at eight knots, the crew moving so fast that they left their breakfast still cooking on a smoking stove. 

A five-member boarding party from the Toronto turned off the engine and found 20 cement-block sized packages, each wrapped in blue plastic stamped with the words "Freedom for Afghanistan" in English. The sailors cut one of the 90 large blue plastic packages open and found 20 book-sized packages of what appeared to be hashish. Fearing that the blocks in a second compartment were booby-trapped, the boarding party brought two of the 50-lb packages back to the frigate.

The Toronto towed the dhow south for a rendezvous with the USS Leyte Gulf, which declared the vessel an international maritime hazard and since a law enforcement investigation was impossible, ordered it to be sunk with the drugs still on board. This quickly became a good excuse to exercise the gun crews on both vessels. Canadian Commodore Jean-Pierre Thiffault, at the coalition base in Florida, told the press that "there's always an opportunity in this particular case to exercise your ship's gunnery. It's good for combat readiness and it dealt with the problem of disposing with the barge."

The Toronto's Captain Ian Paterson noted after the two-hour long barrage "wooden vessels are amazingly robust. It took literally hundreds of rounds from the Leyte Gulf, explosive rounds, which set it on fire, to sink the dhow." When Leyte Gulf was finished, there was nothing left. It was unbelievable." Both heavy machineguns and a 57mm cannon were employed.

Canada has a total of five ships taking part in Operation APOLLO, Canada's military contribution to the international campaign against terrorism. On 7 February, the HMCS Vancouver intercepted the African-registered 1,600-ton MV Zakat (or "Charity") off the Iran-Pakistan border. The tanker had suffered a major engine breakdown and was listing six degrees to port. While the Vancouver's CH-124 Sea King helicopter hovered above covering the ship with a machine-gun, a six-man boarding party scrambled aboard.

The Zakat was suspected of smuggling Iraqi oil in violation of United Nations sanctions and a 20-man Canadian team found evidence of smuggling, including documents, communications and repair equipment, technical facilities and full load of Iraqi oil. The Zakat never regained propulsion, and the Vancouver towed her to the approaches of the Straits of Hormuz, where it was handed over to an unnamed coalition ship. Seizing illegal oil and drug shipments cuts off the terrorists from their lucrative smuggling profits. - Adam Geibel


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