Pirates who kidnapped 15 sailors from a Turkish-crewed container ship in the Gulf of Guinea on Saturday have made their first contact with the shipping company to discuss a ransom, Turkish state media reported on Thursday.
“Communication has been established with crew members of the Mozart container ship,” Istanbul-based Boden Shipping, which provides technical management services for the vessel, was quoted as saying by state-owned Anadolu news agency.
“Information has been obtained that all 15 crew members are in good health, not wounded and together,” it said.
The company did not say whether a ransom demand was made but declared it would make no further statement in order to protect the “security and health” of the crew and their families.
One sailor, an Azerbaijani citizen, was killed in the raid while those kidnapped are from Turkey, according to the respective governments and a crew list seen by the Reuters news agency.
The body of the slain sailor, Farman Ismayilov, was retrieved when the ship he had served on docked in nearby Gabon following the attack. It was airlifted from Gabon’s capital Libreville to Istanbul, and then to the Azerbaijani capital Baku by Turkish Airlines.
Accounts from the crew, family members and security sources described a sophisticated and well-orchestrated attack on Saturday in which armed pirates boarded the ship and breached its protective citadel, possibly with explosives.
The Liberian-flagged vessel Mozart was travelling to Cape Town from Lagos when it was attacked 160 kilometres (100 miles) off Sao Tome island on Saturday, maritime reports showed.
Following the attack, Mozart anchored at the nearby Port-Gentil, Gabon on Sunday, but with only three of its surviving crew members on board.
According to reports, the pirates disabled most of the ship’s systems, leaving only the navigation system for the remaining crew to find their way to the port.
The three Turkish crew members are in good condition, said Turkey’s embassy in the Gabonese capital, Libreville.
Turkey is doing everything it can to get back the 15 kidnapped sailors, though the pirates have not made any contact with officials, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday.
The Gulf of Guinea – off the coasts of Nigeria, Guinea, Togo, Benin and Cameroon – is the most dangerous sea in the world because of piracy, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
In July 2019, 10 Turkish seamen were kidnapped off the coast of Nigeria. They were released less than a month later.