According to Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA), the cargo ship Nour M, intercepted on Thursday night, was taken to the island of Symi the following morning under the escort of Coastguard vessels, where it was soon thereafter led to the island of Rhodes.
The vessel’s Turkish captain and seven crew members, two of whom were Turkish and five Indian, were placed under arrest, coastguard sources told ANA-MPA.
The exact destination of the arms and ammunition has yet to be verified”, the coastguard statement read. Apart from the large quantity of firearms, the ship was also allegedly carrying a “large” quantity of explosives. A probe determined the ship had previously been used for drug trafficking.
Sources told ANA-MPA that the vessel had set sail from Ukraine, although the ship’s final destination remains unclear. Although the ports of Tartus in Syria and Tripoli in Libya had both been declared as destination ports to marine traffic systems, the Turkish Mediterranean port city of Iskenderun was declared as the destination port by the ship's captain.
As Russia Today reports, Maritime expert Mikhail Voitenko told Ukraine’s Vesti that the ship likely picked up its cargo in Istanbul. “I think it was there for no other purpose than to get the weapons. It is also strange that it took the ship two weeks to get from Nikolaev [Ukraine] to Greece when the trip takes a maximum of five days. What it was doing and where it was doing it at the time: that is the question.”
Meanwhile, according to Turkish daily Hurriyet, the captain of a ship has categorically denied claims of having weapons on board while maintaining that the cargo was destined to the Libyan Defense Ministry.
“There are no explosives or weapons on board. I and my crew are going crazy. I learned the claims that the ship was carrying 20,000 Kalashnikovs and explosives from the press. I have sailed for 40 years, and this is the same time that such a thing has happened to me,” the Turkish captain of the Nour M, Hüseyin Yılmaz, told Doğan news agency today.
“The claims are groundless. They have made my life miserable with the wrong information,” he said.
Ylilmaz also added: “I gave the Greek police the phone numbers of the company and the person who delivered the shipment as the Libyan ministry representative to whom I will deliver it. I told them to arrest me if they were any weapons. But the police did not have the courage to look into the containers because it was a transit shipment. I and my two Turkish crew members have been interrogated nine times”.
According to ANA-MPA , the Nour M is also believed to have been used in the past for drug trafficking.