US Navy rescues five Iranians as drug smuggling boat catches fire

Suspects set fire to their stash, the US Navy says

A fire rages after an explosion aboard a fishing vessel in the Gulf of Oman. AFP

The US Navy said it rescued five Iranians suspected of smuggling drugs after they apparently set fire to their stash on board a traditional sailing vessel off the coast of Oman. One man is still missing.

The Navy released aerial surveillance footage showing the traditional ship, known as a dhow, as it sailed in the Gulf of Oman on Wednesday.

Smoke billowed from the vessel after those on board apparently set fire to it and an explosion rocked the ship.

Sailors from the patrol craft USS Sirocco later arrived, rescuing the men on board.

They also recovered more than 1,745 kilograms of hashish, 500 kilograms of methamphetamine and 30 kilograms of heroin.

The Navy valued the recovered drugs at $14.7 million.

Navy personnel believe that figure represents only half the drugs on board the dhow, with the rest either burnt or lost when the vessel sank, said Cmdr Timothy Hawkins, spokesman for the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which is based in the Middle East.

The five Iranians rescued from the dhow received medical treatment and have been handed over to authorities in Oman, the Navy said.

Iran did not immediately acknowledge the incident on Thursday.

The Navy and allied forces in the region conduct anti-narcotic patrols throughout Middle East waterways.

Smugglers often use dhows to quietly transport heroin from Afghanistan and other drugs through the region.

Updated: December 16th 2021, 11:04 AM