On 20 March the French Aquitaine-class frigate Provence, having recently returned from taking part in India’s International Fleet Review, was conducting maritime-security and counterterrorism operations in the northern Indian Ocean when she intercepted a large arms cache being smuggled to Somalia. The frigate’s NH-90 helicopter spotted a suspicious vessel that was subsequently boarded. The stateless dhow turned out to contain an arsenal of small arms, including nearly 2,000 AK-47 assault rifles, 64 Dragunov sniper rifles, and antitank missiles along with other military equipment. The weapons, which were seized under the U.N. Security Council mandated arms embargo, amount to only one of several recent high-profile arms seizures carried out on the high seas. Less than a month earlier, off the coast of Oman, the Australian Oliver Hazard Perry–class frigate HMAS Darwin seized another large cache, including almost 2,000 assault rifles, 100 grenade launchers, and machine guns and mortars, from a fishing vessel that was also en route to Somalia.
By Eric Wertheim