India police question US ship crew over arms

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NEW DELHI: Indian police on Friday questioned 33 people aboard a ship operated by a United States (US) anti-piracy firm for carrying guns and ammunition in Indian waters without proper permits, reports said.

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India’s coastguard has said it stopped and detained the ship after discovering the cache of weapons and ammunition before escorting it on Saturday to the southern port of Tuticorin.

Police launched an investigation into the 10 crew and 25 armed security guards of the Seaman Guard Ohio, which is registered in Sierra Leone and belongs to the US-based maritime security firm AdvanFort.

The 35, who include British, Estonian, Ukrainian and Indian nationals, were detained over the cache of some 30 assault rifles and around 4,000 rounds of ammunition, according to the Times of India website.

Thirty three of them were taken to a local police station for questioning, while two remained on board, it said, citing unnamed police sources.

The crew had not maintained a log of the arms on board, according to NDTV, also using unnamed sources.

The incident comes after a furor over the shooting deaths of two Indian fishermen allegedly by two Italian marines off the coast of the southwestern Indian state of Kerala in February last year.

The southern tip of India is close to major trading routes from Asia and Europe and some cargo ships now travel with armed guards to deter pirates.

AdvanFort has said its guards regularly provided “armed counter-piracy protection” to cargo ships and therefore their weapons and amunition were stowed on board the Seaman Guard Ohio.

AFP

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