Arms on ship perhaps from UN
Kolkata - An arms-laden ship bound for Pakistan and detained by Indian authorities may have been carrying decommissioned weaponry from a UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia, police said on Sunday.
The police made the statement as the ship, detained on Friday by Indian authorities, was brought to the port of Kolkata in West Bengal state from Diamond Harbour, 50km south of the city.
Police earlier said the MV Aegean Glory, bound for Karachi, contained a "huge quantity" of explosives, rocket launchers, anti-aircraft guns and some bombs in two large containers.
The ship "may have been carrying decommissioned weaponry that was being used by troops in a UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia," West Bengal police director general Bhupinder Singh told AFP
"The ship was apparently chartered by the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia. It seems the military hardware was being decommissioned and sent back as three separate consignments to Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan."
The UN sent 15 000 troops into Liberia in 2003 after 14 years of civil war that claimed roughly 270 000 lives.
In April, the UN peacekeeping force in Liberia (Unmil) began scaling back its presence after a UN and government assessment in 2007 that the country was gradually moving towards peace and stability.
A team from India's intelligence agency had arrived in Kolkata to check the cargo, police said.
Indian intelligence officials have contacted UN peacekeeping officials in New York to obtain detailed information about the ship, West Bengal police inspector general Surojit Karpurokayastha said.
"The military hardware was loaded onto the ship in Monrovia port in Liberia" and the ship set sail on May 17, Karpurokayastha told AFP.
The detained ship, which has 20 crew members including its Greek captain, had sailed from Monrovia to Mauritius and on to Chittagong in Bangladesh before making for Diamond Harbour, he said.
Kolkata is often used to unload shipments for landlocked neighbour Nepal, police said.
Karpurokayastha said the vessel was next due to sail for Karachi.
The 153m long Panama-registered ship was detained following an intelligence tip-off, police said.