Cargo ship held in anti-terror operation is free to go

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The Independent Online

A cargo ship seized in an anti-terrorist operation in the English Channel has been given the all-clear.

Scotland Yard said it had received new information, which had helped bring the search of the MV Nisha to an early end.

The police said teams of experts had failed to find any noxious, hazardous or dangerous substances amid the 26,000 tons of raw sugar that was being taken to a refinery on the Thames. The vessel's captain was told he was free to continue his journey after the three-day examination.

The Nisha was believed to be one of a fleet of ships with links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida network when it was seized on Friday morning in international waters 30 miles off the Sussex coast.

Suspicions had been raised after a tip-off from a foreign intelligence agency. The Nisha had recently docked at the east African country of Djibouti to drop off American grain as part of a food aid shipment. Djibouti is a neighbour of Somalia, which has been linked to al-Qa'ida.

David Veness, head of Scotland Yard's specialist operations, said: "New information, combined with the relentless efforts of scientific experts, our detailed knowledge of the ship and its movements, and very careful examination of the vessel over the last three days leads us to be completely satisfied that the Nisha is not a suspicious vessel and does not pose a danger.

"We have not detected any signs of interference and we do not believe that the seals of the holds have been interfered with."

Officers said they were also satisfied no members of the crew or the ship's owners had committed any offence.

Mr Veness said: "This was the right and proper course of action to take. Thankfully, the ship has been proved not to pose a danger to the public. We would take similar action in the future if there was a potential risk to the public."

The ship had been moored off the Isle of Wight since its seizure in an operation that including the Royal Navy frigate HMS Sutherland and Customs and Excise.

The Nisha had sailed from Mauritius bound for the Tate & Lyle refinery on the Thames at Silvertown in east London.