The guided-missile destroyer Winston Churchill seized thousands of illicit weapons — including AK-47 assault rifles and heavy sniper rifles — from two dhows off the coast of Somalia last week.
The Churchill’s Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure team and embarked joint service Advanced Interdiction Team detected the weapons during a flag verification boarding and the weapons were subsequently seized from the stateless dhows during maritime security operations from Feb. 11-12.
“This joint team [Army, Navy and Coast Guard] on board Churchill came together to successfully execute this operation over the course of two days in the Indian Ocean. These operations prevent nefarious actors from illegally spreading their lethal aid,” Cmdr. Timothy Shanley, commanding officer of Churchill, said in a Navy news release.
In addition to AK-47 assault rifles and heavy sniper rifles, the tranche of weapons included light machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, crew served weapons, along with barrels, stocks, optical scopes and weapon systems. It’s unclear where the weapons came from.
Maritime security operations such as this one aim to promote free flow of commerce and obstruct illicit cargo from getting into the wrong hands, the Navy said.
“We are proud of the combined efforts of the AIT and Churchill crew members for executing dynamic and demanding boardings,” Lt. Travis Dopp, assistant Advanced Interdiction Team Leader on Churchill, said in a Navy news release. “We are proud to have a positive impact on the safety and security of coalition forces by interdicting shipments of lethal aid.”
The seizure comes about a month after the U.S. military finished relocating its troops from Somalia to other areas of the continent, in accordance with an order from former President Donald Trump.
The Churchill has been deployed since August.