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Malaysia detains Chinese ship for looting British World War II sunk battleships

Malaysian authorities have detained a Chinese-flagged cargo ship amid reports of the salvaging of World War II shipwrecks in Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone.

Malaysia has detained a Chinese-flagged cargo ship suspected of looting two World War II  British shipwrecks in the country’s exclusive economic zone, according to a report from the state-run Bernama news agency.

Local maritime police detained the Chinese ship on Sunday. The ship, registered in Fuzhou, had 32 crew on board, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said in a statement.

Cannon shells “suspected to be from World War Two” were uncovered during a search of the vessel. Malaysian agencies are also investigating the provenance of the ammunition.

The ammunition is believed to be from the British Navy ships HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, which were sunk by the Japanese in 1941 was found on board.

Old shipwrecks are targeted by scavengers for their rare “pre-war steel” as low radiation in the steel makes it a rare and valuable resource for use in medical and scientific equipment.

Fishermen and divers first reported the presence of the foreign vessel to Malaysia authorities last month.

The Royal Navy battleships were dispatched to Singapore during World War 2 to strengthen the defence of Malaya and were sunk by Japanese torpedoes on 10 December 1941.

The strike – which occurred just three days after the attack on the US fleet in Pearl Harbour – killed some 842 sailors and is considered one of the worst disasters in British naval history, according to a BBC report.

The area is the site of the wrecks of two British warships, the battleship HMS Prince of Wales and cruiser HMS Repulse, sunk in an attack by Japanese warplanes on December 10, 1941, just two days after Japan attacked the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

The looting of World War II shipwrecks has been condemned in Britain as it amounts to a desecration of maritime graves of the country’s war heroes.