‘Terrorist’ alert during EU cruise

As Europe’s ministers of transport and merchant marine cruised across the Aegean in an informal summit earlier this month, the coast guard and navy were working furiously to keep them safe following information that two small freighters with «terrorists» were headed this way, Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Anomeritis revealed yesterday. He said that the police anti-terrorism squad tipped off the coast guard during the May 15-18 cruise that two vessels in which terrorists were believed to be traveling had left Lebanon and were headed for Greek territorial waters. This prompted a full alert. «As soon as the information was received, and given that the 25 European ministers of transport and merchant marine were aboard the Eleftherios Venizelos, the coast guard’s response was immediate,» Anomeritis said. «The information said that the two vessels, which were coming from Lebanon and had already passed wide of Cyprus, were already close to Greek territorial waters. The coast guard vessels, supported by naval forces, patrolled the wider region between Rhodes and Karpathos» in the eastern Aegean, he said. «The intensive mobilization by the Greek authorities lasted two days and, as it appears, it deterred the ostensible terrorists from daring to enter Greek waters,» Anomeritis added. He did not say what became of the suspect vessels. But a second incident prompted another terrorism alert, which also ended quietly. The Merchant Marine Ministry’s operations room received an anonymous phone call that the freighter Avra Mary which was to pass in transit through Piraeus on May 22 was carrying 13 members of the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization. Coast guard officers boarded the ship and found that five Pakistani sailors, who had valid travel documents, and a Greek crew member had gone ashore, even though the ship was in transit. The men were found and, along with the Indian captain and the Greek owner of the boat which had ferried them ashore, were taken to a prosecutor. A misdemeanors court found them innocent through lack of evidence and they were allowed to go on their way.