Middle East

Greek coast guard seizes Libya-bound ship carrying weapons

Greek authorities have seized a freighter carrying an undeclared shipment of weapons en route from Turkey to Libya, coast guard officials said on Wednesday.

A coast guard patrol boat raided the vessel on Tuesday, 20 nautical miles northeast of Crete. The freighter, with a crew of seven and which had sailed from the Turkish port of Iskenderun, was escorted to Heraklion port on the island.

The United Nations has imposed an embargo on weapons shipments to Libya, which is plagued by factional conflict.

"The ship's crew is being questioned and the content of its containers will be checked," a coast guard official said, declining to be named.

The coast guard provided no further details of what kind of arms the freighter had on board, or its ownership.

A Turkish foreign ministry spokesman confirmed the cargo included weapons but said it was fully documented and was destined for the Sudanese police force. The vessel was also carrying building materials for Libya, he said.

"If investigations by the Greek authorities show that the consignment is going to receivers other than those stated in the documentation, and if that is shared with us, naturally measures could be taken," foreign ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic said.

Libya is divided between two rival governments battling for control, leaving a security vacuum being exploited by migrant smugglers and Islamist militants.

Bilgic said that the company which owned the ship was registered in the Greek port city of Piraeus and that the vessel had begun its journey in Famagusta in northern Cyprus and had also passed through the Egyptian port of Alexandria. It came to Iskenderun on Aug. 25 and left four days later, he said.

The vessel's documentation indicated that it was supposed to travel on to Misrata and Tobruk in Libya, before travelling back to Beirut, Bilgic said.

(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos in Athens and Tulay Karadeniz in Ankara; Editing by Matthias Williams and Nick Tattersall/Mark Heinrich)

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