Mon, May 19, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Pirates seize ship full of sugar off coast of Somalia


Pirates on Saturday hijacked a Jordanian-flagged cargo ship off Somalia, the latest in a series of pirate attacks in the area this year, a Kenyan maritime official said.

The vessel, Victoria, was seized about 75km off the coastal capital Mogadishu, said Andrew Mwangura of the Kenyan branch of the Seafarers’ Assistance Program.

“The ship was seized by the pirates at about 6am today in Somalia. It is now sailing northwards,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Jordanian Transport Minister Alaa Batayneh said the vessel, owned by a Emirati company, was carrying 4,200 tonnes of sugar donated by Denmark to the people of war-torn Somalia.

“It was going from India to Mogadishu when contact was lost,” Batayneh said, adding that the crew included Bangladeshis, Indians, Kenyans, Pakistanis, Somalis and Tanzanians.

“The ministries of transport and foreign affairs are coordinating with the concerned parties to secure the release of the boat and its crew,” the official said, adding that contact was being made with the Danish embassy in Mogadishu.

Mwangura said there were “at least 12 crew members on the ship when it was hijacked.”

Last month Somali pirates hijacked a French luxury yacht, Le Ponant, and its crew of 30 for a week. It was released on April 11 when French security forces pursued some of the suspected pirates and captured six who were than taken to France where they were charged by a Paris court.

A Spanish fishing boat was also seized in the same region and held for six days after a US$1.2 million ransom was paid.

The coastal waters off Somalia are considered among the most dangerous in the world.

More than 25 ships were seized in Somali coastal waters last year despite US Navy patrols, the International Maritime Bureau said.

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