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Ship docks in Benin with 28 children

COTONOU, Benin -- A Nigerian freighter that was believed to be carrying between 100 and 250 children intended for sale as slaves docked in Benin early Tuesday, but only 28 children were found on board.

It is unclear whether the ship, the MV Etirino, was actually the vessel involved in the suspected slave trade. According to CNN's Stephanie Halasz in Cotonou, the ship contained 117 adults and 28 children who said they got on the boat in nearby Gabon.

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CNN's Stephanie Halasz shows who was on board the ship when it docked

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  AUDIO

Alfred Ironside, Unicef: Poverty is at the origin of the slavery trade

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Nicholas Pron, Unicef: We are very worried

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Esther Guluma, Unicef: Child slavery is common

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Ivan Watson, NPR Correspondent:
A ring of child traffickers planned this trip

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The vessel has disappeared since last reported sighting

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  MESSAGE BOARD
 

The ship was greeted by a large number of diplomats, Red Cross officials and journalists.

Benin officials are now suggesting that the Etirino, subject of an intensive search, might have been confused with another vessel. Government officials had previously said they feared the captain of the ship might drop off his child passengers along the African coast.

The Benin government said the Etirino was refused entry at two African ports over the past week after apparently leaving Cotonou about 10 days ago. It was last seen after being turned away from a port in Cameroon and had become the subject of an international search.

The United States agreed Monday to help look for the freighter. Government officials said U.S. Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater had offered U.S. assistance in finding the ship. Benin officials had called the situation "a national disaster."

The ship was believed to be carrying at least 100 and perhaps as many as 250 children intended for sale as unpaid domestic and plantation workers.

An international arrest warrant had been issued for Stanislas Abatan, a Benin businessman who the government said is believed to be behind a slave-trade ring. Warrants were also issued for the owners of the Nigerian freighter, its captain, and crew.



RELATED STORIES:
Child slavery: Africa's growing problem
U.S. agrees to help find Benin slave ship
Slave traders hunted in Africa
Benin police await 'slave' ship
Benin searches for child slave ship

RELATED SITES:
Benin Government
American Red Cross

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