WORLD BRIEFING / FINLAND

TIMES WIRE REPORTS

A ransom demand has been received for the return of a Russian-manned freighter that went missing last month in the Atlantic, Finnish investigators said.

It was not immediately clear whether the ransom demand was legitimate, and the whereabouts of the Arctic Sea, its 15 crew members and its $1.8-million cargo of timber remains a mystery.

Crew members had said they were attacked in Swedish waters four days before the ship disappeared July 28, but there has been no confirmation that the ship was actually seized.

"A ransom demand has been made. . . . Let's say it's a largish amount of money," Markku Ranta-Aho, of Finland's National Bureau of Investigation, told national YLE radio. He said the demand was addressed to the Finland-based company that owns the Arctic Sea, but he would not give details or say where the ship might be for fear of endangering the crew.

The French navy said the ship was probably near Cape Verde. Widespread reports also had placed the ship near the island nation off West Africa.

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