The stateless dhow – a small sailboat – had come from Iran, and was found with a cache of weapons on board by the FS Provence as it made its way towards Puntland.
The UN’s Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) was subsequently given access to the cache and discovered North Korean manufactured weapons, according to its annual report submitted on November 2.
“The six light machine guns have characteristics consistent with Type 73 light machine guns designed and manufactured in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),” the report reads.
“According to a defence analysis publication, the Islamic Republic of Iran appears as the only country to have an army equipped with the Type 73, apart from the DPRK,” it adds.
The images provided in the report show the Type-73s bore Korean characters on their safety mechanisms.
The Type-73, a PKM-inspired light machine gun capable of using both belts of 7.62×54mmR munition as well as stick magazines, was delivered by North Korea in substantial numbers to Iran during the Iran-Iraq War.
It has subsequently been spotted in use by Iranian-backed militias in both Iraq and, more recently, Syria.
Images of the Type-73 machine guns | Credit: SEMG report
Chrome-plated versions of the machine gun can sometimes be seen being awarded to North Korean soldiers during high-level inspections by North Korean leaders.
While North Korea has long exported weaponry overseas, including to the Middle East and Africa, the SEMG did not discover find evidence of North Korean involvement in the shipment.
The SEMG reportedly sent a letter to the DPRK on May 3, “to obtain information about the possible export of Type 73 machine guns,” but received no response.
The nature and meager size of the shipment is not typical of DPRK weapons exports, which are usually significantly larger in volume.
The report also states that the Iranian government denied any involvement after the SEMG identified the origin of the boat as Konarak port in Iran and the captain of the ship was found to possess Iranian identification.
Also seized from the ship were 2000 assault rifles, 64 sniper rifles, anti-tank missiles, and optical sights.
Edited by Oliver Hotham