A Russian cargo ship believed to have been hijacked off the coast of Sweden last month has been located, the ship’s owner told CNN on Monday.
The Arctic Sea’s crew is safe and onboard a Russian navy vessel, according to Victor Matveev, the director of Solchart Management AB. The Arctic Sea, which sails under a Maltese flag, was carrying a 6,500-ton cargo of timber from Finland to Algeria when it reported trouble in Swedish waters on July 24. Its crew told authorities that eight to 12 masked people boarded the vessel about 3 a.m. that day and bound and beat the crew, according to a statement from the Maltese Maritime Authority. “During [the attackers’] stay onboard, the members of the crew were allegedly assaulted, tied, gagged and blindfolded and some of them were seriously injured,” the maritime authority said in a written statement. During the reported hijack, the vessel’s radar and satellite systems were off-line for two hours, during which it was witnessed performing “extreme maneuvers,” said Maria Lonegard, a spokeswoman for the Swedish police.
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Swedish police reached the ship by phone on July 31 and spoke with someone they believe to be the captain, Lonegard said. It was the last known communication with the vessel, which was believed to be off the coast of France at that time. Matveev said he had spoken to people on the ship July 30, and “all looked normal, like normal day-to-day business.” But he said he was unable to raise the ship August 1. The Russian military has been searching for days for the cargo ship after it failed to arrive in North Africa as scheduled on August 4.
On Saturday Finnish police told CNN that a ransom demand had been issued to Solchart Managemen for the return of the vessel. Finnish police would not reveal any further details about the international police inquiry into the ship’s disappearance. Media reports suggested the ship had been sighted near the Cape Verde islands off the coast of west Africa.