Kenyan police raided a ship docked in the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa on Friday, on suspicion that it carried drugs and firearms, officials said.
East Africa has become a key export route for Afghan heroin destined for Europe. Regional maritime forces, short of funds and anti-trafficking expertise, have struggled to stem the flow of drugs through their territorial waters.
Kenyan soldiers and security personnel cordoned off the entire port for hours before seizing the ship, paralysing East Africa’s biggest port, which serves as the main gateway for imports and exports in the region.
“Based on intelligence gathered, the ship is suspected to be carrying fire arms and drugs, but we shall confirm that once the inspection is done,” said Francis Wanjohi, the Kenyan coastal region’s police commander.
Wanjohi did not give further details, but police sources told Reuters the ship is German-owned and named Mv Hoegh.
In July, Kenyan police seized 341.7 kg of heroin hidden in the diesel tank of a ship the biggest single seizure of drugs ever at the Indian Ocean port.
Heroin is typically transported from Pakistan and Iran to east Africa, known for its porous borders and weak maritime surveillance, and onwards to Europe.
In November, an Australian Navy warship patrolling Indian Ocean waters in the region seized heroin worth $158 million. Another Australian warship raided a dhow with 1,023 kg of heroin on board near Kenya in April 2014
Mombasa handles imports such as fuel and consumer goods for Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia, and tea and coffee exports of the entire region. (Writing by Aaron Maasho; Editing by George Obulutsa, Larry King)