MidEast

Mystery Swirls Around Seized Arms Ship Containing More Than 60,000 Weapons

Analysts and observers are struggling to unravel reports that Egyptian security officials seized a ship — currently of unknown origin and destination — carrying tens of thousands of weapons.

Turkish media outlets identified the ship as an Iranian fishing vessel named the ““Sawit 1″ and reported that it was carrying 62,283 firearms, including sniper-rifles, AK-47s, RPGs and large quantity of ammunition. The Anatolia Turkish News Agency described the ship as being captured in Egyptian territorial waters about 12 miles off the Egyptian coast. Ten sailors were said to be on board.

Reuters identified the vessel as the COMR and reported that it was sailing under a Togo flag with a crew of at least seven. The news wire conveyed the content of a Facebook post written by Egyptian general staff spokesman Ahmed Mohamed Ali describing the ship as belonging to a private security company of the kind hired to protect regional shipping from pirates:

The Togolese-flagged ship, called COMR, was found 12 nautical miles north of Ras Muhammad in the Sinai Peninsula, general staff spokesman Ahmed Mohamed Ali said on his Facebook page. “Inside they found a number of weapons and quantities of ammunition of various types,” Ali said. “The boat belongs to a private maritime security company which serves to secure ships passing through highly dangerous areas, especially in light of the spread of piracy in the southern Red Sea area and off the Somali coast,” he added… “The weapons and ammunition seized in the vessel are linked to the nature of their work and the tasks assigned to them to secure commercial vessels,” Ali said in his statement.

Meanwhile, some Egyptian media reports described the ship as a trading vessel sailing from the Israeli port of Eilat to Africa, while others identified it as Iranian. The Egyptian newspaper Al-Masr Al-Jadida described the ship’s seizure as further proof of the military presence of Iran and its Revolutionary Guard in Egypt. The paper had reported on a similar incident three days ago in which another ship was intercepted in the same area. Lebanese media sources described the ship’s cargo as being a “huge quantity of weapons heading for Egypt.”

Israel’s Channel 2 said the ship was likely Iranian, and headed for either the battlefields of Syria or Egypt’s increasingly lawless Sinai Peninsula.

[Photo: Reuters]