Three Dutch naval wrecks that went missing from the bottom of the Java Sea appear to have been taken illegally by scrap dealers, NOS reports.
An investigation by Dutch and Indonesian experts found evidence of a salvage operation at the sites where cruisers SNLMS De Ruyter, Java and Kortenaer were sunk by Japanese ships in 1942, with the loss of around 1,100 sailors.
Prime minister Mark Rutte asked the Indonesian government to investigate after divers reported in December that the wrecks had vanished.
Photographs of the seabed and interviews led researchers to the conclusion that the ships had been deliberately removed. Education and science minister Jet Bussemaker said a detailed study of the seabed would now be carried out.
In total seven shipwrecks have disappeared from the Java Sea. Divers made the discovery during preparations for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Java Sea which involved Dutch, Indonesian, British, American and Australian warships.
A total of 2,200 Allied servicemen died, including 900 Dutch and 250 Indonesian nationals. The battle led to the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies.
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