Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Pirates Of Somalia

Pirates seize Malaysian tanker off Somalia's coast

KUALA LUMPUR: Armed pirates seized a Malaysian tanker with more than 20 crew in the Gulf of Eden off the coast of Somalia, a global maritime watchdog said Wednesday.

Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting centre here told AP that they picked up a distress signal late Tuesday and immediately notified Western naval ships patrolling the area.

An international terrorism task force dispatched a warship to intercept the tanker, which was heading toward Somalia territorial waters, he said.

"We have had no communication with the vessel so far. The distress call was relayed through another ship but the tanker has been confirmed seized by pirates,'' he said.

Choong said the Malaysian tanker was carrying palm oil from Indonesia to Europe when it was attacked but it was unclear when the raid took place.

He said once the ship entered Somali waters, pirates were likely to demand ransom for the release of the vessel and the crew. Choong declined to give further details, citing concern for the crew's security.

Somalia is the world's biggest piracy hotspot, with 24 reported attacks in the first half of this year.

The impoverished country has not had a functioning government since 1991 and foreign vessels are frequently seized for ransom by pirates armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and automatic weapons, making it difficult and expensive to deliver aid.

In June, the UN Security Council voted to allow international warships to enter Somali waters to combat the problem.

But its 3,025km coastline - the longest in Africa -remains virtually unpoliced.

Ships have been urged to stay more than 200 nautical miles from the Somali coast, Choong said. - AP


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