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Update 2: Aid workers held captive on Maltese-flagged ship off Libya

British and Irish volunteers who were taking aid to Gaza are being held captive on board a Maltese-registered ship off Libya after a dispute with the captain over money, according to the British media.

Transport Malta said the Malta National Maritime Security Committee was monitoring developments on board the MV Strofades IV, a Maltese registered ship managed in Greece.

Transport Malta said it was informed that the MV Strofades IV "was allegedly boarded by a number of unauthorized persons at the port of Darnah in Libya. The vessel was forced to sail to International waters and is currently heading towards Greek Territorial Waters."

It is understood that the Libyan Navy has been informed of this incident, Transport Malta said.

The crew is made up of Ukranian, Greek and Egyptian nationals.

Transport Malta did not give further details.

AID WORKERS HELD

The Press Association said a number of aid workers, including Britons and Irishmen, were being held captive on board the ship.

Volunteers on the Road to Hope convoy, an independent humanitarian group taking aid to Gaza, were taken out to sea after the row with the Greek captain over a payment.

Ellie Merton, London liaison for the convoy, said: "We are astonished that this has happened - shock isn't the word.

"As far as I know, the boat owner became really aggressive over a payment for something, tried to shut the back end of the boat and moved away from the pier really fast.

"The boat was still attached to the quayside and as he drove he yanked the ropes off, there were bits of concrete flying everywhere.

"We have lost telephone contact with those who are still on the ship against their will - without any paperwork, passports or authority to leave Libya, possessions or, when we last heard, food or water.

"We're extremely concerned - the boat's not seaworthy and the captain has shown he is willing to risk life and limb of himself, his crew and the aid workers."

The ship is now in international waters, where it has been surrounded by Libyan navy ships.

Officials have been negotiating with the captain since this morning.

As well as the seven British volunteers, two Irish, one Algerian and three Libyan officials are on the ship, all aged between 24 and 60 years old.

Among the members of the convoy are Ken O'Keefe, a former US marine, and Laura Stuart, a mother of three from Barnet, north London, both survivors of the Mavi Marmara attack in May this year.

Convoy leader Kieran Turner, a humanitarian aid worker from Liverpool, is also one of those held captive at sea.

A spokesman for the British Foreign Office said: "We are aware of the incident and have been in close contact with the convoy organisers.

"Our Embassy in Tripoli has been urging the Libyan authorities to resolve the situation rapidly and ensure that those caught on the ship are returned to safety."

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