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Finland still probing patriot missile ship

HELSINKI - Finnish authorities on Wednesday impounded 160 tons of explosives and 69 surface-to-air missiles found on a British-flagged cargo ship ultimately destined for Shanghai, China, officials said.

The M/S Thor Liberty sailed from the north German port of Emden on Dec. 13 and two days later docked in Kotka, southern Finland, to pick up a cargo of anchor chains, Finnish Customs spokesman Petri Lounatmaa said.

Rikosylikomisario Timo Virtanen, Detective Chief Superintendent in Finland's Nation Bureau of Investigation, tells CBS News he doesn't believe the weapons are connected to terrorism.

"As far as we can make out the shipment was legal," said Virtanen. "They were not trying to smuggle the missiles ... they are destined for South Korea."

He tells CBS News the ship's two most senior officers "are still being interrogated" Thursday.

"The patriot missiles are being transported from the ship to a more secure location under the protection of the Finnish military," says Virtanen. "The explosives onboard the ship are not being confiscated... the problem with the explosives is that they are supposed to be inside containers, but they are legal."

He confirmed that the Finns are investigating two crimes; that the shippers did not ask for permission to transit the missiles and explosives via Finland, and the explosives being inappropriately loaded.

Virtanen said dock workers found the explosives — picric acid — badly stored on open pallets instead of in closed containers. They alerted inspectors who found the missiles in containers marked as holding fireworks.

Interior Minister Paivi Rasanen said she had not heard of a similar case.

"Of course, there are legal transports of weapons or defense material (through Finland) but in this case the cargo was marked as containing fireworks," Rasanen told national broadcaster YLE TV. "That is quite unusual."

Lounatmaa said customs officials and police have launched a joint investigation into a possible breach of Finnish export and weapons trading laws.

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