Saudi Arabia hands over command of intl navy force to UK

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Saudi Arabia handed over command of an international naval task force to the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy on Wednesday.

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The Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150) has been under the command of the Royal Saudi Naval Forces since July.

CTF-150 conducts security operations in the Gulf of Oman, North Arabian Sea, and Gulf of Aden.

It is one of four such task forces under the Combined Maritime Forces, the world’s largest international naval partnership consisting of 34 member nations.

Under al-Mutairi’s leadership, CTF 150 ships logged more than 10,000 hours on regional patrols and intercepted six shipments of illegal drugs that included opium, heroin, hashish and amphetamines, according to a press statement issued by the Combined Maritime Forces.

The combined estimated value of the seized drugs totaled more than $250 million.

“Six months ago, I was here on this same stage,” Royal Saudi Navy Rear Adm. Abdullah al-Mutairi explained during a ceremony at the US Navy base in Bahrain on Wednesday.

“We said then, ‘Saudi Arabia is always ready.’ We came here ready, and this is our achievement.”

Al-Mutairi’s headquarters staff included personnel from Bahrain, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.

CTF 150’s new commander, UK Royal Navy Capt. James Byron, has completed multiple command tours including several in the Middle East.

He served as the staff operations officer and later deputy commander of the Bahrain-based United Kingdom Maritime Component Command until August 2020.

“I am delighted to be taking command of Combined Task Force 150 and look forward to following the huge successes achieved by Rear Adm. al-Mutairi and his team from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over the last six months,” Byron said.

“My Royal Navy staff, supported by personnel from both the Royal Navy of New Zealand and the Italian Marina Militare, will work tirelessly to keep a watchful eye over the region.”

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US Navy says it seized $85 mln worth of heroin in Gulf of Oman with Saudi-led team

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