Turkish stowaway, whose arson prompted IDF raid on ship, wanted to reach Europe
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Turkish stowaway, whose arson prompted IDF raid on ship, wanted to reach Europe

Channel 12 reports suspect to be returned to Turkey rather than face prosecution in Israel for setting fire on a cargo vessel in effort to avoid capture by crew

Israeli naval forces prepare to board a Turkish ship which was apparently set on fire by a Turkish stowaway as it lay off the coast of Israel, June 9, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
Israeli naval forces prepare to board a Turkish ship which was apparently set on fire by a Turkish stowaway as it lay off the coast of Israel, June 9, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

A Turkish national who allegedly set a fire on a cargo ship off the coast of Haifa, prompting Israel naval forces to board the vessel, was apparently trying to get to Europe, Channel 12 television reported Monday.

The man, 45, was brought to Haifa Magistrate’s Court but the hearing was canceled after authorities decided to just send him back to his home country.

During investigation following his capture Sunday it was discovered that the man had stowed away on the ship at a port in Turkey hoping to hitch a ride to Europe.

As the boat approached Israel, the man realized he was in the wrong location and then apparently started a fire as a diversion while he hid from the crew to avoid being handed over to Israeli authorities.

Investigators also reportedly discovered that he had succeeded in illegally entering Israel in the past, several years ago. He was discovered and returned home on that occasion, Channel 12 reported.

Israeli naval forces were dispatched Sunday morning to the cargo ship off the coast of Haifa.

The Israel Defense Forces said it received a report overnight from a foreign ship anchored near the coast that a fire was started on board by “unidentified elements.”

Israeli naval forces prepare to board a Turkish ship after a fire was apparently lit by a Turkish stowaway as it lay off the coast of Israel, June 9, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

By the early afternoon, it announced troops had taken control of the ship and searched the vessel together with police.

“During the searches the soldiers caught an unlisted passenger who was handed over to the Israel Police,” the IDF said. “The incident is over.”

The ship, the MSC Canberra, was a few kilometers from Haifa. The Kan public broadcaster reported it arrived from the port of Mersin in southern Turkey and was flying a Panamanian flag.

There were no reports of injuries.

Further details of the incident were barred from publication by the military censor.

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