06 May 2009

Antigua says cargo ship hijacked off Somalia

Link to Article

MIAMI (Reuters) - An Antigua and Barbuda-flagged cargo ship has been hijacked by a band of pirates in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia, the government of the Caribbean state said on Tuesday.

It was the latest reported seizure of a vessel in the Gulf of Aden by pirates from virtually lawless Somalia, who over the last few years have captured dozens of vessels and hundreds of hostages, making off with millions of dollars in ransoms.

"At approximately 09:09 a.m. AST (2:09 a.m. British time), the Maritime Administration of Antigua and Barbuda was advised that the Antigua and Barbuda-flagged cargo vessel the m/v Victoria had been hijacked by eight pirates in the Gulf of Aden whilst proceeding towards the Port of Jeddah in the Red Sea," the Antigua and Barbuda government said in a statement.

It added the 7,767 gross ton, 146-metre Victoria had a crew of ten and it was believed the hijacked vessel was being taken to the Somalian port of Eyl, a known pirate lair. The statement gave no more details about the fate of the ship's crew.

Antigua and Barbuda's government said the vessel, which is managed by a company in Germany, had been registered with the European Union anti-piracy flotilla operating in the region and was navigating in the recommended East-West corridor of the Gulf at the time of the hijacking.

The ship's management company and the International Maritime Organisation had been informed of the seizure.

Despite the presence of warships from several nations in the Gulf of Aden, Somali pirate attacks have continued.

Last month, U.S. Navy commandos shot and killed three pirates to free Richard Phillips, a U.S. ship captain held hostage by the sea raiders. A fourth suspected pirate was arrested and brought to the United States for trial.

Phillips' kidnapping prompted several U.S. lawmakers to call for putting U.S. military forces on board commercial vessels, a measure opposed by the Pentagon.

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