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FRANCOP WEAPONS SHIP SEIZED BY ISRAEL

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Special navy forces discovered weapons and ammunition on the cargo containers ship Francop, overnight Tuesday 11/03/2009, after boarding the Francop, some 100 nautical miles west of Israel, flying an Antiguan flag. Antigua is a small Caribbean islands state ( see also – Victoria Weapons Ship ).
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Defense officials said, on Wednesday 11/04/2009 morning, that the Francop was carrying arms sent by Iran and destined for Syria and probably Hizbullah. The troops found the weapons and ammunition cache hidden behind what appeared to be a civilian cargo.

According to the officials, the Francopm carried advanced weaponry including missiles, and the incident was apparently similar in scope to the seizing of the Karin A ship intercepted in 01/2002 off the coast of Gaza.

The ship is currently docked in the Ashdod port, and being unloaded for further inspection.

On midnight 11/04/2009, after unloading 150 containers out of over 300 on the ship, an estimated of 500 tons of weapons were uncovered, including over 3,000 Katyusha rockets 122mm and 107 mm. The Katyusha un-precise rockets have no other use then to shell, indiscriminately, large targets such as urban areas.

A month ago, Der Spiegel reported that the US Navy had boarded a German cargo ship near the Suez Canal that was carrying ammunition from Iran to Syria or Hizbullah (see – Hansa-IndIa ).

According to intelligence sources the Francop uploaded the 300 containers in the Egyptian port of Damietta, on 11/01/2009. The containers cargo, according to the papers, was raw plastic materials and in each container the weapons were, indeed, hidden behind lines of white bags of raw plastic. The containers were brought to Damietta few days earlier by the Iranian ship Visea (formerly called Iran Zanian). The Visea is owned by the IRISL Corporation, Iran’s national shippers. The Visea is now sailing around Northern Europe.

The Francop peas released on Thursday 11/05/2009 morning to continue its tour but without the Iranian weapons.

* The Francop is owned by a German company. The Cypriot UFS shipping company, which operates the Francop, denied having any knowledge about the specific weapon load. The Francop was built in 2003 and sailed regularly back and forth between Syria, Cyprus, Egypt the Red Sea and to Iran in the Indian Ocean.
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* The Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mualem, who was in visit in the Iranian capital Teheran Responded to the seizure of the Francop, which he defined as a state sponsored piracy, and said there is no weapons, whatsoever, of the ship designated from Iran to Syria (see – SYRIAN Double-face ).
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* Also on Wednesday 11/04/2009, the Saudi authorities released the picture of IRISL Corporation’s ship, loaded with weapons to the Saada Rebels in Yemen and seized by Yemeni forces on 10/27/2009 (see – Mahan1 ).
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