More than 2,000 weapons including assault rifles, rocket launchers and machine guns were found hidden under fishing nets in a Somalia-bound boat, Australian Navy officials said Monday.
The HMAS Darwin navy ship seized the weapons from the vessel during normal patrol of the Middle East-Eastern Africa coast waters.
Sunday’s recovery of the weapons could signal a continual but clandestine attempt by the Shabaab to keep their supply of arms despite a global operation against the terror group.
On Monday, Australia’s Vice Admiral David Johnston who is also the Chief of Joint Operations for the multi-nation patrol operation called Combined Maritime Forces, said the seizure of the cache could be significant even though there was no revelation of the origin of the weapons.
“Darwin’s successful boarding and subsequent seizure of the weapons concealed under fishing nets highlights the need to remain vigilant in the region,” Mr Johnston told theAustralian Navy magazine Navy Daily.
“Australia worked as part of the multinational Combined Maritime Forces to discover and seize these illegal weapons,” he added.
The ship upon netting the weapons, classified them as 1989 AK-47 assault rifles, 100 rocket propelled grenade launchers, 49 PKM general purpose machine guns, 39 PKM spare barrels and 20 60mm mortar tubes.
The fishing boat crew of 18 had reportedly hidden the arms under fishing nets and and were nabbed approximately 330km off the coast of Oman, heading towards Somalia.
The UN has imposed an arms embargo on Somalia in a bid to control the supply of illegal weapons to the war ravaged nation.
Under the United Nations sanctions, patrolling ships can intercept vessels in the high seas suspected to be ferrying weapons to Somalia.
The captured boat did not have an identification flag and the Australian Navy classified it as stateless.
Australia is part of a multinational team called the Combined Maritime Forces that routinely patrols about four million square kilometers of international waters lying between the Middle East and the Eastern Africa region.
The force, established in 2002 to fight terrorism, piracy and secure high seas for shipping lines currently includes up to 31 countries mostly from Asia and members of international security bloc the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)
The African Union Mission in Somali (Amisom), to which Kenya Defence Forces belong, have been fighting the Somali terrorists who have occasionally employed guerrilla attacks on the mission’s camps in Somalia.
Last week troop contributing countries Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti, Nigeria (police), Burundi, Ethiopia and Somalia jointly called for enhanced funding for Amisom and more restrictions on the militants to cut off their arms and financial supply.