Russian ship hijack was 'Israeli cover story'

By Jessica Elgot, September 10, 2009
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The Arctic Sea, which disappeared in June and was believed to have been hijacked by pirates

The Arctic Sea, which disappeared in June and was believed to have been hijacked by pirates

An Israeli source has claimed that the hijack by pirates of a boat which disappeared off the coast was a cover, and that the ship was carrying a Russian missile system to Iran.

The Arctic Sea and its 15 crew members, all Russian, disappeared in July. The ship was then believed to have been sailing to Algeria with a cargo of timber.

The ship was found in mid-August off West Africa, and Moscow claimed the ship had been hijacked by pirates, charging eight men with hijacking and piracy.

But a senior Israeli intelligence source told the BBC the hijacking was a cover-up story, or even a set-up by Mossad, to give the Russian navy time to intercept the ship.

It was claimed that while apparently missing for ten hours on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a secret visit to Moscowto discuss the situation.

His spokesperson insisted that he had been visiting a "security installation inside Israel".

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, said he had not heard anything about a visit by Mr Netanyahu.

Last updated: 5:54pm, September 10 2009