Fri, Apr 09, 2010 - Page 5 News List

Pirates warn South Korean destroyer not to get closer

AP , SEOUL

Somali pirates warned a South Korean destroyer chasing a hijacked supertanker with 24 sailors on board not to get any closer or else risk endangering the crew, Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

All crew members of the South Korean-operated, Marshall Island-flagged Samho Dream are safe, the pirates said by telephone on Wednesday through the tanker’s captain in the first contact since the hijacking on Sunday in the Indian Ocean.

However, “the safety of the sailors will be in jeopardy” if the destroyer sails any closer, a ministry official quoted the pirates as saying.

Pirates have been on a streak of ship hijackings in recent weeks, with at least 16 ships and some 240 crew members believed held captive off Somalia’s lawless coast.

On Wednesday, pirates hijacked a Turkish vessel with a crew of 25 off the Kenyan coast, the EU Naval Force said. Separately, a hostage on board the hijacked Indian cargo dhow Faize Osamani drowned on Tuesday when the ship was used to attack another vessel and navies intervened.

The Samho Dream, loaded with about US$160 million in crude oil, was hijacked on Sunday. A South Korean naval destroyer on anti-piracy patrol in the area took off in pursuit of the 300,000-tonne tanker and caught up with it the next day, officials in Seoul said.

The captain said the pirates were “heavily armed,” adding that that they should not be provoked since the tanker is carrying a large amount of crude oil, a ministry statement said. The hijackers had demanded direct contact with the ship’s owner, it said.

Formal negotiations over the crew’s release have not begun, South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun said.

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