Port Vila, Vanuatu (PressExposure) September 09, 2009 -- When the 97 metre Arctic Sea was lost from off the coast of Sweden, no one was certain what had happened to the cargo ship, until it was discovered off the coast of Algeria, some weeks later. Various nations reported sightings of the fleeing ship as it sailed south from the English Channel.
Anatoly Serdyulov, Defence Minister, said "Citizens of Estonia, Latvia and Russia - were arrested without a shot being fired". The eight hijackers are now being detained in the high security Russian prison of Lefotrovo.
"The men had acted as an organized group with criminal intent to hijack the Arctic Sea and its cargo", said Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the Russian Prosecutor General's Investigative Committee.
Masquerading as police officers, pretending they had an engine breakdown, the hijackers boarded the vessel in open waters. They wore black masks and were armed. Their clothing had 'police' written on it. The men will be charged with kidnapping and piracy.
The ship was allegedly transporting timber, but there is some confusion as to the true nature of the cargo. There is speculation that it was carrying arms, or nuclear material to the Middle East. It is alleged that Russian mafia smugglers were involved.
The crew were questioned aboard an anti-submarine Russian warship, after the Russian Navy intercepted the ship, 300 miles off Cape Verde, three weeks after it vanished. The 15 member crew of the Russian owned Arctic Sea were isolated in separate cabins. Some sustaining injuries, though no exact details are yet available.
A Navy source said, after the Portuguese Navy reported the true location of the Arctic Sea, "It was not a question of search and rescue, but a political and police decision". This act of piracy is the first to be perpetrated in European waters in modern times.
Investigators in Finland reported that the ship's owners had received a ransom note asking for $1.5 million, but, no-one can say whether it was for real, or merely an attempt by opportunists to grab some money.
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