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2001: Terror alert as police seize cargo ship
Police have stormed a cargo ship in the English Channel after an intelligence tip-off it may contain terrorist material.

The Metropolitan Police's Anti-Terrorist Branch, in a joint security operation with the Royal Navy and Customs, are investigating the MV Nisha vessel.

The 500-foot ship is owned by the Bombay-based Great Eastern Shipping Company (GESC) and was intercepted in international waters off the Sussex coast at about 0800 GMT today.

It had sailed from Mauritius but there were reports it stopped in Djibouti, next to Somalia, which has been linked with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror network.

MV Nisha had been heading for the Tate & Lyle sugar refinery at Silvertown, east London, where it was due to arrive at 0400GMT tomorrow.

An initial search did not uncover anything but a second study will take place at Sandown Bay off the Isle of Wight and it could last several days

There must have been some information that went to Scotland Yard
GESC chairman Sudhir Muliji
Officials would not release further details but stressed there was no intelligence to suggest anthrax was involved.

GESC chairman Sudhir Muliji said the stopover in Djibouti was made before the current journey and was to drop off American grain as part of a food aid shipment.

He said the ship then went on to Mauritius to pick up the sugar and transport it to Britain.

"She was making a pretty standard voyage but then we are told there are all these places that are supposedly linked with al-Qaeda," he said.

"Obviously, there must have been some information that went to Scotland Yard and they decided to make double sure that there was nothing bad on board, which I think we must be very grateful for."

The MV Nisha had been chartered by the Mauritius Sugar Syndicate and was carrying 26,000 tonnes of its raw sugar.

Tate & Lyle's director of corporate communications, Chris Fox, said the company was co-operating fully with the police.

HMS Sutherland was involved in the operation, the Ministry of Defence said.

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MV Nisha
An initial search found nothing

In Context
The MV Nisha was searched for five days but was given the all-clear when officers said they were satisfied the vessel posed no danger to the public.

But Mr Mulji said his company was considering legal action against British police for the delay.

He said the ship belonged to a British company, was chartered in England and the brokers are all English and that "it was just a question of asking someone".

Scotland Yard declined to comment on his remarks.

But the head of Scotland Yard's specialist operations, assistant commissioner David Veness, said officers would remain vigilant, and would not hesitate to take similar action in the future if there was a potential risk to the public.

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