Dubai, United Arab Emirates — The U.S. Navy said on Thursday that it had 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.
The Navy released aerial surveillance video showing the traditional ship, known as a dhow, as it sailed in the Gulf of Oman on Wednesday. Those on board pour a liquid, likely an accelerant, over the cargo hold as the Navy approaches. Smoke then pours from the vessel after those on board apparently set the fire, with an explosion rocking the ship.
Sailors from the patrol craft USS Sirocco later arrived, rescuing the men. The sailors also recovered over 3,850 pounds of hashish, 1,100 pounds of methamphetamine and 66 pounds of heroin.
The Navy valued the recovered drugs at about $14.7 million, but Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins, a spokesperson for the U.S. Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet, said that likely represented only half of all the drugs on board the dhow, with the rest burning up or sinking with the vessel.
The five Iranians rescued from the dhow received medical treatment and have been handed over to authorities in Oman, the Navy said. One additional Iranian on board the dhow remains missing.
Iran did not immediately acknowledge the incident Thursday.
The Navy and allied forces in the region conduct anti-narcotic patrols throughout Mideast waterways. Smugglers often use dhows to transport heroin from Afghanistan and other drugs quietly through the region.
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