[QODLink]
Africa
Somali pirates in hijacking spree
Armed gangs seize four vessels in the Indian Ocean in a single day.
Last Modified: 06 Apr 2009 11:07 GMT

Somali pirates have hijacked hundreds of vessels in the Indian Ocean over the past year [File: AFP]

Somali pirates have seized at least four vessels in separate attacks in the Indian Ocean, maritime officials say. 

A British cargo ship, a French yacht, a Taiwanese ship and a Yemeni tug off the coast of Somalia have been hijacked, Andrew Mwangura of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme said on Monday.

Mwangura said that the British-owned vessel was being operated by an Italian company.

"A 32,000-tonne bulker was seized early this morning," he said.

"The crew is mixed but we are not sure of their nationalities."

Somali pirates also captured a German container vessel in the region's busy commercial shipping lanes on Saturday.

Mwangura said the 20,000-tonne Hansa Stavanger was seized 650km off the southern Somali port of Kismayu, between the Seychelles and Kenya.

"We believe the German ship has 24 crew on board. We're trying to establish their identities and the name of the vessel," he said.

Heavily armed gangs from the Horn of Africa nation have hijacked dozens of vessels in the past year, taking hundreds of sailors hostage and making millions of dollars in ransom.

Piracy prevention

Foreign navies have deployed warships to areas of the Indian Ocean in response to the piracy, reducing the number of successful attacks in recent months, but there are still near-daily attempts.

Seychelles deployed security forces on its outer island last week, after pirates hijacked a vessel flying the Indian Ocean nation's flag.

Foreign navies have deployed warships to the area to tackle piracy [AFP]
Somali pirates typically use speed boats launched from "motherships".

They then take captured vessels to remote coastal village bases in Somalia, where the hostages are usually treated well in anticipation of a sizeable ransom payment.

In January, a Somali group released the Sirius Star - a Saudi supertanker loaded with $100m worth of crude oil - and its 25 crew after $3m was parachuted onto its deck.

Last September, the pirates also grabbed world headlines by seizing a Ukrainian cargo ship carrying 33 Soviet-era T-72 tanks.

It was released in February, reportedly for a $3.2m ransom. The pirates say the arrival of high-tech foreign warships in the waters off their country has made their work more dangerous.

Last month, Somali pirates seized two European-owned tankers.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Featured
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.