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NAIROBI, Kenya — Somali pirates hijacked a cargo ship west of the island nation of the Seychelles on Sunday, the European Union Naval Force said.
The naval force did not know the number and nationalities of the crew members onboard the St. Vincent and Grenadines-flagged Rak Afrikana yet, said Cmdr. John Harbour.
The Italian warship ITS Scirocco was heading toward the position to investigate, he said, adding that the 7,500-ton cargo ship appeared to be experiencing engine problems at the time it was hijacked.
International naval forces have stepped up their enforcement of the waters off East Africa in an effort to thwart a growing pirate trade. But attacks have continued and the pirates have extended their range south and east.
Experts say piracy will continue to be a problem until an effective government is established on Somalia's lawless shores. The country has not had a functioning government for 19 years.
On Saturday, a U.S. warship captured six suspected pirates after a battle off the Horn of Africa — the Navy's third direct encounter with seafaring bandits in less than two weeks.
A statement by the U.S. Navy said the suspected pirates began shooting at the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland just before dawn about 380 miles (610 kilometers) off Djibouti, a small nation facing Yemen across the mouth of the Red Sea.
The Navy said the Ashland returned fire and the suspected pirate skiff was destroyed. All six people on board were rescued and taken aboard the Ashland, which suffered no injuries or damage.