Cairo / Occupied Jerusalem: Egypt’s navy on Thursday seized a weapons-laden ship and detained its crew who had set off from the Israeli port of Eilat en route to the African country of Togo, security officials said.
Officials the ship, “which was flying the flag of an African country,” was intercepted after it strayed into Egyptian territorial waters.
The ship, with a crew of 14 and a cargo of 105 crates of unspecified weapons and ammunition, belonged to an African security company, the officials said.
The military’s spokesman Colonel Ahmad Mohammad Ali said on his Facebook page the ship belonged to a company that secures maritime routes in the Red Sea, a haven of Somalia-based pirates.
“The weapons and ammunition on this ship are related to its work and mission to secure commercial vessels,” he said.
But Israel’s Channel 10 television contradicted the Egyptian military’s version, reporting that the boat was carrying 40 tons of Iranian weapons destined for Syria or the Palestinian Gaza Strip.
In his statement, Ali did not say whether the ship was released, but security officials had said the vessel would be held while authorities investigate whether it was carrying smuggled weapons.
Israel’s government on Friday strenuously denied it had any link to the ship.
“Nobody in Israel knows anything about this ship. It’s clear that it did not come from Eilat or any other Israeli port,” said foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.
An Egyptian military official said that the cargo included several dozen US-made assault rifles and 27,000 rounds of ammunition and the crew included Ukranians and Americans.