Seychelles holds mystery arms ship

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The Independent Online
SEYCHELLES police have removed almost 400 tons of guns and munitions from a Greek ship accused by Washington of violating UN resolutions banning trade with Serbia and prohibiting arms shipments to Somalia.

The ship was spotted in the Indian Ocean by Seychelles coastguard planes on Saturday, 47 nautical miles off Mahe, the largest of the Seychelles islands. It was accompanied into Port Victoria, inspected and impounded. The British High Commissioner, John Charland, said the name painted on the ship was Malo, but it appeared to have been changed several times. Washington said the ship was either Maria or Bana I.

One source said the Malo was carrying weapons ranging from 106mm field guns to pistols. Alain Butler Payette, the assistant to the Seychelles Foreign Minister, said the ship was carrying unspecified arms and munitions which, according to the ship's manifest, appear to have been loaded at Bar in Montenegro and were en route to Kismayu in southern Somalia.

Kismayu falls under the control of General Hersi Morgan, an important Somali warlord and son-in-law of Siad Barre, the ousted Somali president. Gen Morgan is believed to have access to former government funds and strong links to Kenya, placing him in a good position to have made a deal with the Serbs.

Washington says Serbia has been flouting UN sanctions and selling weapons for badly-needed hard currency. The White House cited the interception of the Malo as an example of the success of sanctions against rump Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav Defence Ministry denies it was exporting arms to Somalia. The make and origin of the weapons are still under investigation, said Mr Payette.

In the meantime, the Seychelles coastguard is gloating over its successful interdiction on the high seas. Only recently reorganised, 'it can't believe it actually caught something', one official said.