Web blogs all over the Internet are continuing to buzz about an Iranian ship that was hijacked last August by Somali pirates and which Russian sources warned contained a dirty bomb intended for Israel.
The hijacking passed largely unnoticed in the mainstream media, save a brief mention in the news on August 22 that reported that three vessels – Iranian, Japanese and German – and their 57 crew members were hijacked by pirates in the Gulf of Aden near
The waterway connects the Red Sea and the
According to its manifest, the MV Iran Devant had departed
The 40 pirates, armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) brought the ship to Eyl, a fishing village in northeastern
Initial attempts to inspect the ship's seven cargo containers failed. The pirates could not break into the holds and the crew swore they did not have access codes to the locks. The captain and engineer of the vessel evaded answering questions about the contents of the holds, despite threats by the pirates to blow up the ship. They first said the containers held crude oil, but then changed the story to say there were "minerals" in the holds.
When at last the pirates succeeded in opening one of the containers, they allegedly discovered packets of what they later reported to be "a powdery fine sandy soil." The pirates who had any exposure to the powder were reportedly struck down by illness and within days began to exhibit strange symptoms, including skin burns and hair loss. Sixteen of them died. Andrew Mwangura, director of the East African Seafarers' Assistance Program, was quoted by the South Africa Sunday Times in a September 28 interview, "There is something very wrong about that ship."
The vessel was released by the pirates on October 10, announced the IRISL public relations office, "after seven weeks of negotiations with Somali pirates." All 29 members of the crew were reported safe.
Russian Intelligence: Ship Was a Dirty Bomb Sent to
"The entire cargo of radioactive sand," said the Russian sources, " [was] obtained by Iran from China (the latter buys desperately needed oil from the former) and sealed in containers which, when the charges on the ship are set off after the crew took to the boats, will be blasted high into the air where prevailing winds will push the highly dangerous and radioactive cloud ashore."
Several military web blogs have noted that had the ship's crew succeeded in reaching
'Logically Not Reliable, But Nothing Impossible in the Middle East'
Dr. Ephraim Kam, deputy director of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), told Israel National News that the entire incident could easily have been a fiction -- or not. "Nothing is impossible in this region," said Kam, an IDF Colonel (res.) and former deputy director of the Research Division in the IDF's Military Intelligence, "but logically [the report] doesn't seem to be very reliable."
The reason, he said, is that such an attack on Israel would cost the Iranians dearly -- and he said they know it.
"First of all, because it could fail, and this would be the worst thing for them. I think that if at all, the timing is very bad for them, while they are trying to acquire their own nuclear weapons, when there is international pressure on them on that issue… It could give Israel the best excuse to attack their nuclear facilities.
"Also, if such an operation is successful, the outcome could be an Israeli strategic attack against the Iranians, which could be very costly for the Islamic Republic. Since the Iranians believe that
"If it is true, this incident could give Israel the best pretext to attack an Iranian nuclear site," said Kam. "Rationally, I tend to think it is no more than a good story."
Israeli government officials could not be reached for comment.