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Nigeria seizes Russian ship, arrests crew

A Russian-owned ship has been seized in Nigeria and its sailors arrested over suspected arms smuggling. It is not the first time foreigners have been implicated in such activities in Nigeria.

Nigerian authorities seized an arms-laden ship and arrested its Russian crew on suspicion of weapons smuggling, the Nigerian Navy confirmed on Tuesday.

"The vessel was carrying 8,598 ammunitions and different rifles. Investigations are still ongoing," said Navy spokesman Commodore Aliyu Kabiru.

The ship, "Myre Seadiver", which was owned by the Moscow-based Moran Security Group and had a Dutch flag, was intercepted in Lagos over the weekend, according to Kabiru.

Authorities discovered 14 Ak-47 rifles and 42 rifles on the vessel, Navy Rear-Admiral Ameen Ikioda added.

"We found that the vessel entered our territorial waters without proper notice with a cargo of weapons, it is contrary to the laws of Nigeria," said Admiral Ikioda.

Nigeria's arms smuggling woes

Arms smuggling is an enduring problem in Nigeria, which is struggling to get to grips with Islamist insurgency in the north and volatility in the oil-rich southeast. The West African state is also a conduit for arms being transported to other countries, both regionally and further afield.

Foreign parties have been implicated in arms smuggling in Nigeria before. In 2010, a stockpile of explosives from Iran was seized at Lagos, sparking a diplomatic confrontation between Abuja and Tehran, which later widened to include Senegal; the latter accused Iran of using the West African route to transport weapons to Casamance rebels.

Casamance is a region in southern Senegal. Rebel forces, known as the Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces (MFDC), have been fighting for independence from Senegal since the 1980s.

sej/ipj (Reuters, IFAX)