Middle East
Gunmen rob ships in Iraqi waters
Robbers target ships belonging to several countries, including the US, off Basra.
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2010 19:11 GMT

Gunmen have robbed the crews of four ships anchored off Basra, Iraq's southern oil hub, a US Navy official has said.

The attacks, which happened last week, targeted the American ship Sagamore, the Antigua-flagged Arminia, North Korea's Crystal Wave and Syria's Sana Star, Lieutenant John Fage of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet told the Reuters news agency on Sunday.

Gunmen stole personal belongings from the crews and "all four attacks occurred from roughly 2am to 4am on August 3," Fage said.

Fage said the crew of the Sagamore reported that two men armed with AK-47s boarded the ship and escaped.

But an Iraqi border guard said two of the attackers were arrested while the rest fled to Iranian waters. 

Rare robberies

The robberies took place about 145km from Basra, an area where seaborne attacks have been quite rare. 

The attacks did not formally qualify as piracy under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea because they took place in Iraqi regional waters rather than the high seas.

The line between politically motivated attacks and crime has become increasingly blurred in Iraq, as various armed groups use robbery to fund their operations.

As the US military prepares to formally halt combat operations on August 31, ahead of a full withdrawal next year, Iraq is seeing about 15 attacks from each day.

Elsewhere in Iraq, three people were killed in two separate attacks in Baghdad, police said on Sunday.

At least 18 people died in a spate of attacks over the weekend, including an Iraqi pharmacist who just returned from studies in the US, officials said on Sunday.

A five-month-long political impasse after a parliamentary election on March 7 failed to produce a new government.

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