ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek special forces seized a cargo ship bound for Tunisia on Sunday after discovering 680 tonnes of explosives in its holds, government officials and shipping sources said.
Greece’s Merchant Marine Ministry said the elite troops boarded the Comoros-flagged ship in Greek territorial waters after receiving a tip-off that it was carrying suspicious cargo.
“It looks certainly like a suspect ship. And it seems it was en route to Africa but we do not yet know exactly to where,” government spokesman Telemachos Hytiris told Reuters.
A police spokesman said the ship was carrying ammonia dynamite, an explosive widely used in mining, as well as detonators and fuses.
Shipping sources said the “Baltic Sky” began its journey in the Black Sea and had been heading toward the Tunisian port city of Gabes.
“After acting on confirmed information, special forces checked the ship carrying 680 tonnes of explosives inside Greek territorial waters,” the Merchant Marine Ministry said in a statement.
CREW IN CUSTODY
The ministry said it had ordered the Baltic Sky, owned by a Marshall Islands registered company named Alpha Shipping, into the western Greek commercial port of Platyali for further checks.
It said the Baltic Sky’s seven crew consisted of five Ukrainian nationals, including the captain, and two Azeris.
“Now we need to check if the cargo is legal or if it was bound for any terrorism group,” a merchant marine official told Reuters.
Tunisia has a significant mining industry with deposits of rock phosphates and some base metals. The minerals industry contributes around three percent to Tunisia’s GDP.
“The captain and the crew have been taken into police custody and are being questioned. Shipping officials and police are checking the ship’s papers,” Hytiris said.
He said all international police and intelligence services have been notified and the cargo has been confiscated.
“This is a huge amount of explosives and a great success for Greek authorities,” he said.
NATO forces have been boarding ships in the eastern Mediterranean over the last few months. The Comoros flag is considered a flag of convenience.
The discovery comes amid heightened security after a series of bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, and a fresh terror warning in Kenya.