According to a Nampula police spokesperson cited in Friday’s issue of the independent daily “O Pais”, the group was carrying an FN 5.5 millimeter rifle, 750 bullets, 18 ammunition clips, and four Motorola communications radios.
The police named the leader of the group as 42 year old United States citizen Michael Ferguson. The three other Americans are William Tarry (38), Jonathan Pujol (31) and Gregory Louis (25). The fifth member of the group is British citizen Grant Dalviel (43).
The weaponry carried by the group had no documentation, leading to the police to suspect that the group were mercenaries, involved in illicit activities.
However, Ferguson told the police that he works for the US-based private security company Greyside, which describes itself as “an international risk management firm specializing in training, maritime security, intelligence operations, information security, and high-risk personnel security, for commercial and government clients”.
Ferguson had supposedly hired the other four members of the group for an operation to recover a vessel hijacked by pirates in the Indian Ocean. Greyside does indeed claim “a deep understanding of maritime piracy” and its website boasts that it “has been selected by numerous shipping companies as their exclusive provider of armed maritime security services”.
The group had flown from the United States via Ethiopia and Kenya, arriving in Nampula on a Kenya Airways flight. Ferguson said they had picked up the weaponry in Kenya.
He said they intended to travel on to the northern Mozambican city of Pemba, where they would have registered their weapons. They were to have stayed in Pemba for two days, then left in small boats to join a vessel of the German shipping company NSB, anchored 12 miles off the Mozambican coast. They expected further weapons to reach them in Pemba, which they had not been able to load on the plane.
Ferguson said NSB had hired Greyside, and from the NSB ship the team would set off in search of the hijacked vessel. The report gave no details of this vessel.
US embassy spokesperson Tobias Bradford said on Friday that Ferguson’s group has no connection with the US government.
He said the embassy had not yet been able to confirm the identity of the group’s members and whether they are indeed US citizens. “We are working on this matter and we are in regular contact with the Mozambican authorities in Nampula”, he added.