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Russian Military Official: 'Arctic Sea' Will be Searched for Secret Cargo

Russia's top general says the military will search the once-missing freighter Arctic Sea for possible secret cargo when it returns to Russia.

Speaking in Mongolia Wednesday, the chief of Russia's general staff, General Nikolai Makarov, said officials need to make sure there was nothing except timber being transported on the ship. Makarov said the motive behind the ship's hijacking off the coast of Sweden last month is "simply not very clear."

Top Russian investigator Alexander Bastrykin told a government newspaper, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, there is a possibility the ship was transporting something other than wood. But Russia's Itar-Tass news agency quotes Foreign Ministry officials as saying a preliminary search of the vessel did not reveal any suspicious cargo.

The saga of the Arctic Sea has raised concerns after media reports indicated the ship might have been smuggling arms or nuclear materials to the Middle East.

Details of the ship's mysterious journey from Finland to coastal Africa are still not clear.

Last week, Russian authorities began questioning the eight people suspected of hijacking the ship.

Finnish and Russian news reports said contact with the ship was lost July 28 off the coast of Portugal. The Finnish reports said the ship was boarded in the Baltic Sea by unidentified men several days after departing Finland with a load of timber. Authorities have not provided details of those events.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.