7 held for suspected tanker hijack after UK commando raid

The Liberian-flagged oil tanker Nave Andromeda at Southampton Docks following a security incident aboard the ship off the coast of the Isle of Wight, Southampton, Britain, October 26, 2020. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 26 October 2020

7 held for suspected tanker hijack after UK commando raid

  • Men, believed to be from Nigeria, were being held at several police stations on suspicion of ‘seizing or exercising control of a ship by use of threats or force’
  • SBS commandos were lowered by rope from helicopters onto the tanker, whose crew had locked themselves in a secure part of the ship known as the citadel

LONDON: Seven stowaways seized when British naval special forces stormed an oil tanker in the English Channel have been arrested on suspicion of hijacking, police said Monday.
Hampshire Police said the men, believed to be from Nigeria, were being held at several police stations on suspicion of “seizing or exercising control of a ship by use of threats or force.” They have not been charged.
Police said the 22 crew members of the Nave Andromeda were “safe and well” after the raid, which unfolded after darkness fell on Sunday. Special Boat Service commandos were lowered by rope from helicopters onto the tanker, whose crew had locked themselves in a secure part of the ship known as the citadel. Within minutes, the stowaways were in custody.
Maritime tracking websites showed the ship reached port in Southampton, on England’s south coast, early Monday.
Police said officers were speaking to crew members to determine exactly what had happened.
The ship had left Lagos, Nigeria, on Oct. 6 and had been due to dock in Southampton on Sunday morning.
Navios Tanker Management, which operates the Liberian-registered vessel, said the ship’s master became “concerned for the safety of the crew due to the increasingly hostile behavior of the stowaways.” A 10-hour standoff ensued as the tanker circled an area a few miles southeast of the Isle of Wight, south of Southampton.
“I think this has got all the hallmarks of a situation where a number of stowaways are seeking political asylum, presumably in the UK,” said Bob Sanguinetti, chief executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping. “At some stage they got aggressive.”
“Clearly no one knew at the time how aggressive they were, whether they were armed or not, what their motives were, because there will have been confusion at that stage,” he said.
The coast guard scrambled helicopters to the scene, and authorities imposed a three-mile exclusion zone around the vessel. Suspecting a hijacking, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel authorized military action, the UK government said.
The Special Boat Service is the elite maritime counter-terrorism unit of the Royal Navy, and the government never comments directly on its actions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he couldn’t comment on “operational details.”
“Both police and armed forces did a fantastic job and I thank them very, very much for what they did to keep our shores safe,” he said.

Related


France targets mosques in extremism crackdown

Updated 03 December 2020

France targets mosques in extremism crackdown

  • Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that if any of the 76 prayer halls inspected were found to promote extremism they would be closed down
  • Inspections are part of France’s response to two attacks — the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty and the killing of three people in a Nice church

PARIS: French authorities will inspect dozens of mosques and prayer halls suspected of radical teachings starting Thursday as part of a crackdown on extremists following a spate of attacks, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.

Darmanin told RTL radio that if any of the 76 prayer halls inspected was found to promote extremism they would be closed down.

The inspections are part of the government’s response to two brutal recent attacks that shocked France — the October 16 beheading of a teacher who showed his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and the stabbing to death of three people in a church in Nice on October 29.

Darmanin did not reveal which places of worship would be inspected. In a note he sent to regional security chiefs, seen by AFP, he cites 16 addresses in the Paris region and 60 others around the country.

On Twitter Wednesday he said the mosques were suspected of “separatism” — a term President Emmanuel Macron has used to describe ultraconservative Muslims closing themselves off from French society by, for example, enrolling their children in underground schools or forcing young girls to wear the Muslim headscarf.

The rightwing minister told RTL the fact that only a fraction of the around 2,600 Muslim places of worship in France were suspected of peddling radical theories showed “we are far from a situation of widespread radicalization.”

“Nearly all Muslims in France respect the laws of the Republic and are hurt by that (radicalization),” he said.
The killing of teacher Samuel Paty, who had shown his pupils cartoons of Mohammad in a class on free speech, at a school outside Paris sent shockwaves through France, where it was seen as an attack on the republic itself.

In the aftermath of his murder the authorities raided dozens of associations, sports groups and charities suspected of promoting extremism.
They also ordered the temporary closure of a large mosque in the Paris suburb of Pantin that had shared a vitriolic video lambasting Paty.

The government has also announced plans to step up the deportations of illegal migrants on radicalization watchlists.
Darmanin said that 66 of 231 foreigners on a watchlist had been expelled, around 50 others had been put in migrant detention centers and a further 30 had been placed under house arrest.

The minister announced the latest clampdown after receiving fierce criticism for pushing a bill that would make it harder to document police brutality.

Images of officers beating up black music producer Michel Zecler in his studio brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets last weekend against Darmanin’s push to restrict the filming of the police in the new bill.
MPs from Macron’s ruling Republic on the Move party have since announced plans to rewrite the legislation.