Sophisticated weapons found in Norwegian ship held at Mombasa port

Mv Hoegh Autoliner carrying motor vehicles when it docked at the Port of Mombasa recently. The vessel is currently being detained at the port. [PHOTO: MAARUFU MOHAMEED/STANDARD]

The saga surrounding the Norwegian ship held at the Port of Mombasa yesterday took yet another twist after the discovery of 34 sophisticated American- made rifles. This came only a day after a white substance was found stashed in some United Nations (UN) trucks destined for the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) said US rifles, including nine M-16s were among the weapons and weapon systems found aboard Hoegh Transporter, which has been held at Mombasa port since Thursday.

Port authorities now say the United Nations did not declare weapons or weapon systems recovered from the vehicle carrier, which had originated from Mumbai.

"I am aware that the manifest says that military trucks from India were supposed to pass through Mombasa port in transit to the Democratic Republic of Congo through Uganda but I can confirm that the manifest had not indicated that weapons were among the hardware," said Major (retired) Mohamed Morowa, the head of security at the port last evening.

A cargo manifest is a document of goods lodged at the port of origin by the exporter to the port of destination. It declares all the cargo on board a ship.

Morowa said: "I have heard weapons have been recovered on the ship".

He said the Tata trucks declared in the manifest were to be supplied to the Indian UN peacekeeping contingent in DR Congo.

Yesterday, The Standard established that after days of searching the multinational task force that had detained the ship's captain and his crew on board, stumbled across 34 rifles including the nine M-16 rifles, besides Nato-grade machine guns of undefined calibre, which were hidden in compartments of military trucks.

Reports show some of the weapons were fully assembled but majority were hidden as critically knocked down kits. US and Kenyan military intelligence are said to be concerned about the origin of the recoil-less and US/Nato rifles and bullets following reports that Hoegh Transporter sailed from Norway before docking in Mumbai.

Yet some reports suggested the weapons might have been been smuggled onto the ship in Mumbai by Pakistani conspirators. Last week Kenya police said Indian intelligence alerted the Kenyans about the suspect cargo.

On Sunday evening, detectives extracted an undetermined white powder from tyre tubes and samples were taken to the Government Chemist for analysis.

An official involved in the search told The Standard that the multinational task force suspects additional weapons, weapons systems and military software could still be hidden on board but there was no indication where these implements were intended. And last evening police announced that the ship's Norwegian captain and his Filipino and Indian crew will not be allowed to leave Hoegh Transporter until a search by a multi-agency task force of Kenyan and US detectives is completed.

Mombasa County Police Commander Francis Wanjohi said the captain and his crew are still under watch on the ship.

"They are still on board and will be last to leave and if they will need to replenish their stocks there is a ship chandler who will supply them," Mr Wanjohi said.

And The Standard has learnt that Indian naval and security intelligence officials arrived at Mombasa port yesterday morning amid fresh reports that the task force has expanded the widening investigation to include Pakistani car traders in Mombasa, who have in the past been accused of importing narcotics stashed in second hand car dashboards and tyre tubes.

And we also established that some top Kenya Ports Authority security officers are now under investigation on suspicion of running a criminal syndicate through the port.