By Joseph Akwiri
MOMBASA Kenya (Reuters) - Kenyan police on Tuesday seized 341.7 kg of heroin hidden in the diesel tank of a ship, the biggest ever single seizure of drugs at the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa.
Police said they did not know the departure point of MV Bushehr Amin Darya, a stateless vessel they detained at sea last week after receiving intelligence reports it may have been carrying drugs to Mombasa.
Hamisi Masha, anti-narcotics police chief for Kenya’s coast region, said nine suspects were arrested, including six Pakistanis, two Indians and an Iranian. One man died on the ship from illness soon after the ship docked in Mombasa, he added.
"We recovered some 900 grams of heroin when we searched the ship last week and this gave us the indication there could be more, so we searched further and today we have recovered a further 341.7 kg," Masha said.
Masha said the initial 900 grams of heroin had been discovered among bags of cement in the ship's official cargo.
"The ship is big," he added. "We think there could be more."
Masha said the police were seeking the owners of the ship and working with counterparts in India, Pakistan and Iran.
There has been a surge in the volume of heroin trafficked through east Africa in recent years, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
The drug is typically transported from Pakistan and Iran to east Africa, known for its porous borders and weak maritime surveillance, and onwards to Europe.
In April an Australian warship seized more than a tonne of heroin worth $268 million from a dhow in Kenyan waters.
(Writing by Drazen Jorgic; editing by Andrew Roche)