Eritrea has released two Israeli pilots, Vered Aharonson and Yehuda Maoz, whom it held for ten days. Hebrew daily "Yediot Ahronot" reports that they had transported weapons and munitions to Eritrea for a German ship owned by Ofer Holdings Group's Ofer Shipping Group to defend it against Somali pirates.
The pilots flew to Eritrea on July 29, after notifying Israeli air traffic control at Ben Gurion Airport that they were going to pick up an injured person in Eritrea. In fact, the plane's cargo bay carried arms, including Kalashnikov rifles.
The manifest did not list the arms, but other items. The pilots were arrested after an unannounced inspection by Eritrean security forces. Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs was worried that the pilots had no authorization, and could have been jailed for years. Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman ordered a strong diplomatic effort to obtain their release. Following the pilots release, they returned to Israel yesterday.
The Israeli authorities are investigating whether the pilots acted legally and if legal action should be taken against them.
An Ofer Shipping Group spokesman told "Yediot Ahronot" in response, "We do not comment on the security of our ships against pirates."
The pilots said that they were not arms dealers.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on August 24, 2011
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