Kapring av skip er noe vi kjenner fra kysten utenfor Somalia. Nå tyder ting på at et maltestisk-registrert lasteskip Arctic Sea med 15 russere om bord, er blitt kapret utenfor kysten av Sverige 24. juli.

Det skulle ha ankommet Alger 4. august. Men ingen aner nå hvor det befinner seg. Hele saken er ytterst mystisk. Lasten var tømmer, og selv om den er verdt noen millioner, er det småpenger mot hva mange andre skip frakter. Det spekuleres i om skipet hadde en hemmelig last: våpen, atommateriale? En annen teori er at skipets eier har kommet på kant med noen som vil hevne seg.

I den retning tyder det faktum at mannskapet ble mishandlet.

Skipet seilte gjennom Den engelske kanal uten at noen oppdaget at noe var galt. Det ble gitt de nødvendige opplysninger underveis, men den automatiske ID-senderen var skrudd av.

On July 24, the Maltese-flagged Arctic Sea reported that it had been boarded by gunmen posing as law-enforcement officers off the coast of Sweden and that its 15 Russian crew members had been tied up and beaten. Four days later, the ship – which was carrying a load of timber from Finland worth $1.84 million – sailed into the English Channel, where it made routine communications with British maritime authorities, who at the time were unaware of the hijacking. About 50 miles (80 km) off the coast of Britain, the ship then slipped off the radar and has yet to be located. Officials are baffled. (See pictures of dramatic pirate-hostage rescues.)

«Who would think that a hijacked ship could pass through one of the most policed and concentrated waters in the world?» a bemused Mark Clark of the U.K.’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency told the BBC. «There didn’t seem [to be] anything suspicious. It could well be that a crew member had a gun put to his head by a hijacker when contact was made.»

According to Swedish police and the Maltese Maritime Authority (MMA), the Arctic Sea’s crew reported that a group of eight to 12 men boarded at 3 a.m. on July 24, occupying the vessel for 12 hours. «During their stay onboard, the members of the crew were allegedly assaulted, tied, gagged and blindfolded, and some of them were seriously injured,» says an MMA statement. According to CNN, since the crew at first believed they had been boarded by a genuine law-enforcement agency, no police complaint was made, and the Arctic Sea continued on its way. At one point, a spokeswoman for the Swedish police told CNN, the ship was witnessed performing «extreme maneuvers.»

On July 28, ship managers based in Finland finally reported the hijacking to the Helsinki police, according to the MMA. Later that same day, the ship passed through the English Channel, communicating its position and speed to the British coast guard as dictated by standard procedure, with no mention of any trouble. The ship’s Automatic Identification System, which relays the ship’s position to authorities, was either switched off or broken. According to CNN, three days later, Swedish police phoned the ship and spoke to someone they believed to be the captain. When the ship failed to make its scheduled arrival in Algeria on Aug. 4, the alarm was raised.

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