Iran Shipping Terrorist Weapons Through Civilian Ports

One aspect of the Israeli Navy's intercept of 500 tons of military ordinance bound for Hezbollah is the disturbing fact that massive shipments of undeclared weapons are still regularly smuggled through civilian ports in a post-9/11 world.

On the night of November 3, the Israeli Navy asked for and received permission from the captain to board and investigate cargo on the Francop, an Antiguan-flagged ship. On that ship they found 500 tons of ammunition, artillery shells, rockets, and explosives.

Among the munitions captured by the Israeli Navy were Iranian 107mm rockets nearly identical to those captured near a U.S. forward operating base in Iraq in 2007. Sources presently in Iraq claim that these rockets are still in constant use against American troops and have killed and wounded U.S. soldiers in their bases as recently as several weeks ago.

How did the Francop come to be carrying 36 containers filled with hidden weapons of war? Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General Yossi Gal led a briefing on November 5 that went largely ignored by the media, a briefing that tracked this deadly shipment from its origins until its capture.

The shipment originated in Iran aboard the Visea, a ship owned by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL). The Visea left the port city of Bandar Abbas with its shipment of weapons in the beginning of October. It was unloaded on October 26 by unsuspecting dock workers in the Egyptian port city of Damietta. The cargo was transferred to the Francop, where it was listed on the manifest as more than 24,000 bags of polyethylene plastic. It was intercepted a week later.

Like the captain and crew of the Francop, Egypt is a victim of Iran's efforts to arm terrorists. Because the cargo was poorly secured in commercial shipping containers with only the flimsy cover of bags of plastic, there was no way Egyptian port workers knew that they were handling hundreds of tons of high explosives, rocket propellants, fuses, and ammunition. And such a potentially deadly scenario could occur in almost any nation, including our own.