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    Arctic Sea unloads cargo in Algeria under scrutiny

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    The Arctic Sea cargo vessel is unloading its cargo of timber in the Algerian port of Bejaia under close scrutiny by the country's national security officials

    CAIRO, November 26 (RIA Novosti) - The Arctic Sea cargo vessel is unloading its cargo of timber in the Algerian port of Bejaia under close scrutiny by the country's national security officials, a local newspaper said on Thursday.

    According to El Khabar newspaper, the Algerian authorities have initially refused to allow the vessel at the center of a mysterious hijacking case this summer to enter an Algerian port, but later agreed on condition that the ship would be thoroughly inspected by security officers before unloading.

    The unloading of 4,000 tons of timber started as soon as the vessel docked in Bejaia, and is expected to be completed on Thursday, the paper said.

    The Arctic Sea, sailing under a new 14-member crew, left the Maltese port for Algeria on November 11, to resume its route interrupted by hijackers.

    The vessel disappeared in the Atlantic on July 24 while carrying a $2 million shipment of timber from Finland to Algeria. It was intercepted by the Russian Navy off West Africa on August 17, when eight alleged hijackers were arrested.

    The ship's disappearance, which triggered a major international search effort, raised suspicions that it was carrying a "secret cargo" of drugs or weapons. Russian authorities have denied the rumors, saying the vessel was hijacked by criminals who demanded a ransom.

    The freighter was handed over to Maltese authorities in late October. The ship was given permission to enter the port following a thorough inspection by Maltese officials.

    In early November, four sailors, who had remained on board the Arctic Sea, returned to their home base in northern Russia.

     

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