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Russia:  Hijackers Threatened to Blow Up Captive Ship

Russian authorities say the armed hijackers of the freighter Arctic Sea demanded a ransom and threatened to blow up the ship if their demands were not met.

The Russian Defense Ministry, in a statement Wednesday, said crew members confirmed the threat. But authorities say the accused bandits discarded their weapons when the Arctic Sea was overtaken Monday by Russian warships off the coast of Africa and ordered to stop.

The ministry also said interrogations of the crew and the hijackers are continuing.

Russia said Tuesday that its naval forces arrested eight people in connection with the alleged hijacking. Authorities declared the ship missing when it failed to make port August 4 in Algeria.

Details of the ship's mysterious journey from Finland to Cape Verde remain unclear.

Finnish and Russian news reports on August 9 said contact with the ship had been lost July 28 off the coast of Portugal. Spanish maritime authorities said the ship, carrying a load of timber from Finland to the Algerian port of Bejaia, did not pass through the Strait of Gibraltar.

Tuesday, maritime officials in Malta, where the freighter is registered, denied reports that the ship had disappeared and say its whereabouts were known to authorities for several days. Authorities say they did not disclose that information for fear of endangering the captive crew.

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