Wednesday, May 07, 2008

HMCS Charlottetown returns to Halifax

Back home, after an eventful mission:
Clutching a small bouquet of red roses and grinning from ear to ear, Leading Seaman Alex Moore raced down the gangway of HMCS Charlottetown to get his first glimpse of his newborn son.

The crewman was the first off the Canadian frigate Wednesday, moments after it sailed into its home port following a six-month counter-terrorism mission in the Persian Gulf...

The Halifax-class patrol frigate, with a Sea King helicopter aboard, participated in Operation Altair, part of Canada's contribution to Operation Enduring Freedom, the code-name for the American-led war on terror.

The Charlottetown's mission involved surveillance, boarding suspicious vessels and trying to gain intelligence on potential terrorist activity in a body of water that is key to the international trade of oil.

"It's been a very successful trip," said Cmdr. Patrick St-Denis, the frigate's captain.

"We were able to conduct over 103 approaches (and) nine operational boardings, leading to a discovery of over six tonnes of illegal cargo with links to terrorism."

St-Denis wouldn't reveal how the military knows the contraband is tied to terrorism, saying only that intelligence indicated links to the groups.

The vessel engaged in several high-profile operations, including using its Sea King to track a French cruise ship hijacked by pirates off Somalia last month.

It also seized almost four tonnes of hashish from a Pakistani vessel in mid-February after receiving intelligence that the small fishing boat was linked to terrorist activities.

About 20 crew members boarded the Al Moula Madad following a tip that the traditional sailing vessel was tied to unnamed terrorist groups and discovered a massive cache of the potent-smelling drug after peeling back decking.

Charlottetown was commanding eight coalition vessels and five aircraft off the coast of Pakistan, seizing a total of 16 tonnes of illegal cargo with its allies during 133 days in theatre.

The drug seizure was the largest for the coalition forces to date and the first one since a smaller operation in 2005.

The crew boarded another vessel in January, seizing a boatload of booze (see Update here) from smugglers and handing it over to Pakistani authorities.

Charlottetown deployed to the Arabian Sea last November to join the continuing U.S.-led campaign against terrorism, Operation Enduring Freedom.

"It shows the commitment of the coalition partners for the importance of the region - to protect the merchant traffic so (it is) not affected by illegal activities," St-Denis said.

Since the first Gulf War in 1991, the navy has sent ships to the region more than 30 times.

Last month, the 300 sailors aboard the Tribal-class destroyer HMCS Iroquois were dispatched for a six-month tour of the Gulf.

The destroyer joins the frigate HMCS Calgary and the supply vessel HMCS Protecteur as part of its mission.


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