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Australian Naval vessel seizes weapons cache bound for Somalia

Somalia descended into civil war in 1991, and a year later the UN imposed an arms embargo against the country. Now an Australian Navy vessel has seized a cache of weapons bound for the Horn of Africa.

Bildergalerie IMDEX Marine Ausstellung 2015 in Singapur

An Australian naval vessel, comparable to the one shown here, intercepted a large weapons cache bound for Somalia

A multimillion dollar cache of weapons bound for Somalia was intercepted by an Australian naval ship near the coast of Oman on Monday.

The weapons supply, which included almost 2,000 AK-47 rifles, 100 rocket-propelled grenades launchers and 49 PKM machine guns, violates a UN Security Council arms embargo against Somalia.

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"The weapons were seized under United Nations sanctions, which authorize interdiction on the high seas of illicit weapons destined for Somalia," the navy said in a statement.

The East African nation has been mired in conflict and civil war since 1991. The arms embargo, first imposed in 1992, was eased in 2013 to allow the Western-backed government in Mogadishu to buy light weapons to bolster its armed forces.

The embargo is intended to keep weapons out of the hands of militant groups such as the Islamist al-Shabab insurgents, who are aligned with al-Qaida.

Patrolling the Indian Ocean

The Australian Navy patrols much of the Indian Ocean as part of an international seafaring force. The navy said sailors from the HMAS Darwin boarded a fishing vessel 170 nautical miles (196 'statute' miles) off the coast of Oman to verify the flag the ship was sailing under. They determined the vessel was stateless.

The Darwin is patrolling the region as part of the Combined Task Force 150, which is responsible for counter-terrorism operations, curbing piracy and drug smuggling.

Symbolbild - Somalia Nationale Armee

Somali soldiers during a training exercise

Also seized from the fishing vessel were 39 PKM spare barrels and 20 mortar tubes. One Western security expert estimated the street value of the entire cache to be in excess of $2 million (1.8 million euros).

It was not immediately clear who, in Somalia, was the intended recipient of the weapons cache, which was found hidden under fishing nets. Besides al-Shabab, there are regional states in Somalia that operate and equip their own militias without the approval of the central government.

No Somali government spokesman could immediately be reached for comment on the Australian Navy's seizure.

Laptop blows up

Unrelated to the weapons seizure, a bomb blast in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, injured six people at an airport.

"A laptop computer went off at the screening area, and the security forces have also managed to defuse two other explosive devices, one of them planted in a printer," Police Lieutenant Colonel Ali Dhuh Abdi told reporters. "Six people were wounded, two of them policemen."

The security checkpoint was manned by Somali government security forces, as well as African Union troops from Djibouti.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

bik/jil (Reuters, AFP)

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