Special forces retake cargo ship after migrants threatened staff

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"The crew reacted and they locked themselves in the bridge of the vessel and so they are safe, we haven't had any injuries".

The stowaways were found on the ship five days ago and were given food and water and placed in a cabin.

The 71,000-tonne ship had set off from Lagos, Nigeria, on 10 December.

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All four of the defendants spoke only to confirm their particulars, with McGee giving his nationality as Liberian and the others saying they are Nigerian.

The situation was brought to an end following a late night operation by Margate and Ramsgate RNLI, Coastguard, police, Navy and the Naval special forces unit, the Special Boat Service. They threatened the crew with iron bars.

Police have said they do not believe the incident is related to terrorism or piracy and the ship has been brought to port. The stowaways, who were uninjured, were held under immigration law.

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The four men have not been named or charged.

The Grande Tema was seen sailing in circles on Friday.

Paul Kyprianou, a spokesman for the Grimaldi shipping company which owns the vessel, said the crew were asked to switch off the lights before the special forces stormed the ship. "We are waiting to see what is going to happen, we expect authorities to intervene".

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The men were discovered on board the 70,000-ton Grimaldi Lines ship earlier this week as it approached the Thames Estuary, near where it was due to dock at Tilbury, Essex.

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