A Turkish ship headed for New York — and stuffed with thousands of AK-47s and other Kalashnikov assault rifles — was seized en route in Italy, authorities said Tuesday. The ship’s deadly hoard of more than 7,500 terrorist-grade rifles and machine guns worth more than $6 million was discovered illegally hidden under piles of properly labeled arms in several massive cargo containers, Italian officials said.
The ship MS Adnan Bayraktar, which bears a Turkish flag, had come from the Romanian port of Constanta and was on its way to a stopover in New York when the bust was made, the authorities said.
Documents showed the cargo containers were ultimately headed to a large U.S. company based in Georgia.
Officials refused to identify the business, citing security concerns and the ongoing investigation.
“We know that the [ship’s] destination was North America, but we don’t effectively know if that’s where the [suspect] arms were going,” one customs official told Italian state television.
The ship’s cache of combat-style weapons was uncovered several days ago during a routine customs inspection at the Calabrian port of Gioia Tauro in southern Italy, officials said. They said they didn’t reveal the bust at the time because of the continuing probe.
The weapons were confiscated by the Italian authorities because of problems with the ship’s customs forms. For example, the arms had been described on some of the forms as “common guns” instead of assault-style.
The smuggled firearms included the lightweight combat Kalashnikov rifles, AK-47 assault rifles and SKA and Mauser rifles, authorities said.
The weapons’ bayonets were still affixed to them, as were cartridges that can hold up to 30 rounds, they said.
The AK-47s had been tampered with so they couldn’t be rapidly fired, but the modification was one that could easily have been reversed, authorities said.
The assault weapons are a favorite with terrorists: Usama bin Laden sported one in the now-infamous footage of him taken after 9/11.
AK-47s also have been the weapon of choice for some infamous military-minded wackos, such as the teens who shot up Columbine HS in Littleton, Colo., in 1999.
The United States has banned such military-style semiautomatic weapons since 1994. The law preventing them from being manufactured, imported or sold here expires in September.