Mystery surrounds the contents of a cargo ship from Libya which was last night due to dock at the Ministry of Defence’s massive weapons storage facility on Loch Long.

The 2,500-ton ship Naja, registered in Antigua Barbuda, set out from the Libyan port of Khoms on January 12. It was due to arrive at 8pm at the Glenmallan berth which links to the Glen Douglas munitions storage depot, believed to be the largest in western Europe. However, as the Sunday Herald went to press last night the Naja was at anchor off Brodick on Arran.

Glen Douglas is a Nato defence munitions depot now solely used by the UK. It covers 650 acres and is virtually invisible to the naked eye, as almost all the storage is underground. In addition to the numerous storerooms built into the hillside at the west end of the glen there are various processing and engineering workshops within the heavily-guarded complex. A road within the facility links the base with the Glenmallan ship berth.

It is believed that mainly conventional weapons such as bombs, explosives and other ordnance are stored there rather than nuclear weapons. It has been estimated that there are around 40,000 tons of weaponry buried in the hillside.

Khoms, or Al Khums, a city of 200,000 people on the Mediterranean coast of Libya, was the scene of vicious conflict throughout the Libyan civil war, remaining under control of Gaddafi forces through most of the war until rebels from Misrata entered the city.

Libya has been locked in a state of violence since the popular uprising in 2011 which ended with the overthrow and death of the former president Muammar Gaddafi. Despite peace efforts the country has remained divided by two factions, both claiming to be the official government.

Refugees have continued to flee the country. There was a a 15 per cent year-on-year rise in the number of people reaching Italy in the first three weeks of this month, at 2,749. Hundreds more have perished at sea attempting to make the crossing.

Last night the Ministry of Defence would not comment on the Naja, or what it might be carrying, saying these questions should be referred to the ship’s owners.


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