Malaysian media has reported that illegal Chinese salvagers have looted sunken British warships from World War II in the South China Sea.
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Malaysia’s maritime agency said Monday it found a cannon shell believed to be from World War II on a Chinese-registered vessel and was investigating if the barge carrier was involved in the looting of two British warship wrecks in the South China Sea.
Malaysian media reported that illegal salvage operators were believed to have targeted the HMS Repulse and the HMS Prince of Wales, which were sunk in 1941 by Japanese torpedoes, days after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
A total of 842 sailors perished, and the shipwrecks off the coast of central Pahang state are designated war graves. Fishermen and divers alerted authorities after spotting a foreign vessel near the area last month.
The agency said Sunday it detained the vessel registered in Fuzhou, China, for anchoring without a permit off southern Johor state. It said there were 32 crew members aboard, including 21 Chinese, 10 from Bangladesh and a Malaysian.
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The agency said officials from the National Heritage Department and others will work together to identify the cannon shell.
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