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Missing cargo ship found off African islands

  • Story Highlights
  • Missing cargo ship Arctic Star found weeks after disappearing
  • Crew safe, transferred to Russian naval vessel, ship's owners tell CNN
  • Ship was carrying timber cargo from Finland to Algeria
  • Ship believed to have been hijacked off Swedish coast on July 24
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MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Russian officials on Monday located a Russian cargo ship that has been missing for more than two weeks after it was believed to have been hijacked, a top official said.

The Arctic Sea had been missing since July 31.

The Arctic Sea had been missing since July 31.

The Arctic Sea was located 300 miles (483 km) from Cape Verde, an island nation a few hundred miles from the coast of western Africa, said Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov.

The crew "is alive and well," he said.

"The crew members have been moved to our anti-submarine warfare ship Ladny where they are answering questions," Serdyukov said.

"The questioning aims to clarify all circumstances of how the ship disappeared and why did it not send any [emergency] signals."

The Arctic Sea, which sails under a Maltese flag, had not been heard from since July 31. It was carrying a 6,500-ton cargo of timber from Finland to Algeria when it reported trouble on July 24 off the coast of Sweden.

It was scheduled to arrive in North Africa on August 4.

On Friday, the ship was reported to be in international waters north of Cape Verde. The news came from Portugal's state news agency, which quoted Cape Verde's defense director, Pedro Reis.

The U.S. military also had a report last week that the ship had been seen a few hundred miles from Cape Verde, two military sources told CNN, but the United States had no independent verification of those reports. The U.S. military was not involved in the search.

At the time, Russia's ambassador to Cape Verde, however, denied that the Arctic Sea had been spotted near the island nation.

On July 24, the ship's 15-member crew had told authorities that eight to 12 people armed with guns and pistols boarded the vessel about 3 a.m. that day, masked and wearing uniforms with the word "police" written on them, the Malta Maritime Authority said.

"During [the attackers'] stay onboard, the members of the crew were allegedly assaulted, tied, gagged and blindfolded and some of them were seriously injured," the maritime authority said in a written statement.

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Swedish police reached the ship by phone on July 31 and spoke with someone they believe to be the captain, police spokeswoman Maria Lonegard said. It was the last known communication with the vessel, which was believed to be off the coast of France at that time.

On Saturday Finnish police told CNN that a ransom demand had been issued to the ship's owners, Solchart Management, for the return of the vessel.

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