3 July 2014

Kenya: Suspected Drugs Ship Seized Off Kenyan Waters

Nairobi — Kenyan naval officers have intercepted a ship off the coast of Lamu suspected to contain narcotics or fire power.

On board the ship were 10 crew members, seven of whom are Pakistani, two Indian and one Iranian who are being detained pending verification of the ship's contents.

"They claim that they are carrying 300 metric tonnes of cement from Yemen and we are there to confirm whether it is cement. We have a team from anti-narcotics who have arrived from Nairobi and investigation is ongoing," Mombasa Acting Police Commander Sevelino Kubai told journalists on Thursday.

The ship, MV Al Noor, was one of two Kubai said the Kenyan Navy had been on the lookout for following a tip off that they were leaving Mogadishu.

"This ship had come all the way from Pakistan and it had berthed in Mogadishu then from Mogadishu it was coming toward the Kenyan zone," Kubai said.

And despite the crew members' insistence that they were transporting cement, Kubai said the discrepancies in their documentation was suspicious.

"The documents reflect that they were en-route to Zanzibar but when we look at those documents they reflect that the goods inside were actually loaded in Mombasa and their destination is Kenya reflecting that there is more to be looked into that ship," he said of the ship currently docked at the Kilindini harbour under armed guard.

Kubai said a multi-agency taskforce of the Navy, port police and maritime authorities were now involved in securing a berth where the ship could be unloaded and its contents verified.

"The ship was escorted all the way up to our port in Kilindini where it is under 24-hour guard and they are also making arrangements with port authority to have a berth where we are going to offload all the goods. So far what is inside we don't know," Kubai admitted.

Police suspect the ship could be among vessels linked to international drug and arms trafficking in the coastal region whose kingpins are believed to have smuggled 1,032 kilograms of heroin, worth Sh27 billion, which was seized and destroyed off the Kenyan coast in May this year.

The Australian warship HMAS Darwin stumbled upon that particular vessel while on patrol and impounded 46 sacks of heroin and destroyed it at sea.

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