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Sunday, August 23, 2009

MV Arctic Sea: Blame the Piracy on .... Israel

Okay, let's review - a couple of weeks ago a Maltese-flagged, Finnish-owned, Russian-crewed timber ship was allegedly boarded by pirates posing as Swedish police off the coast of Sweden.

The boarders destroyed certain communications equipment.

Despite this assault, the ship did not report the alleged attack immediately - and continued on its voyage from Finland, supposedly headed for Algeria. At the beginning of the transit south through the English Channel, the vessel reported in to English authorities, then disappeared from the grid.

Well, "disappeared" except that after the fact, the Maltese government now says the ship was never really "missing" and its location was being withheld to protect the crew.

For reasons best known to the Russians and, by the way, increasing the level of conspiracy theories, the Russian Navy dispatched a small task force out through the Strait of Gibraltar to look for the "missing" ship.

Reports surfaced that the ship had recently been modified - with the removal of a bulkhead to allow for a larger closed in compartment. Conspiracy theorists speculated about the use of the compartment for transport of nuclear technology, missiles or, in jest, space alien technology (okay, that was me).

Well, eventually the ship reappeared, in international waters off the west African coast, a couple of hundred miles off Cape Verde. A Russian destroyer dropped by, picked up the crew and, reportedly, some pirates - took the captives to Cape Verde, loaded them on a Russian aircraft and took them off to ... Russia, where they are all, crew and "pirates" still being held.

As indicated above, speculation continues about what, exactly, happened with the MV Arctic Sea.

The latest report is that the Israeli Mossad was involved: Did Israel hijack Russian ship to stop Iran arms shipment?:
The mystery surrounding the hijacking of a Russian freighter in July has taken a new twist with reports claiming the pirates were acting in league with the Israeli Mossad secret service in order to halt a shipment of modern weapon systems hidden on board and destined for Iran.
The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported over the weekend that the vessel Arctic Sea had been carrying x-55 cruise missiles and S300 anti-aircraft rockets hidden in secret compartments among its cargo of timber and sawdust.
The eight alleged hijackers originally claimed to be environmentalists when they boarded the ship in the Baltic Sea in Swedish waters on July 24.
But Dmitri Rogozin, Russian ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, said that allegations that the Arctic Sea had been smuggling weapons was "fantasy" and "ridiculous."

The Russian newspaper Pravda's website reported that the ship had been smuggling cruise missiles to Iran on a well-worn path via Algeria, but a "power that has relations with Ukraine" had prevented this.

The Novaya Gazeta reported that the hijackers had been operating on behalf of the Mossad. It also reported that the motive for the visit to Moscow by President Shimon Peres the day after the Russians recaptured the vessel had been an urgent request to his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev to refrain from supplying Iran with weapons.

Israeli officials dismissed the reports as "classical conspiracy theories," but defense experts noted that Israel has a record of hijacking foreign vessels bearing arms to its enemies.
Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Shlomo Brom, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, did not rule out Israel covert action against Iranian efforts to acquire nuclear arms, but seriously suspected Israel would take action against Russian ships.

"It seems that it's full of mystery since everything surrounding Russia is mysterious. And if it's mysterious they dump it on Israel," Brom told The Media Line.

Brom, a retired senior intelligence officer, added he did not believe it could enhance the Mossad's image since it appeared to be a failed hijacking.
More here.

UPDATE: One of the "pirates" is a dead man?:
What now seems increasingly likely, though, is that the truth will never come out. Crew members have told Russian news reporters that they have been told not to disclose "state secrets", while well-informed Russian marine journalists have said they are now wary of commenting further on the case. And the explanations proffered by the alleged pirates have raised more questions than they answer. When quizzed on Russian state TV last week, Mr Lunev said he was working with an ecological group, who approached the Arctic Sea for help when their own inflatable ran out of petrol. But when asked what the group's name was, he answered: "I don't know. It was some private organisation."

Even the suspects' extensive tattoos - normally a reliable guide to identifying different sub-tribes of the Russian Mafia - have caused bafflement. "It is clear they are not our criminals, said Alexander Sidorov, the author of Russian Criminal Tattoos book, after examining TV footage.
So, naturally, Mossad.
(end update)

Me, I'm spreading the "space alien" theory.

If you'd like,you can revisit all my posts on the MV Arctic Sea by clicking on the label "MV Arctic Sea."

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