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Hong Kong ship hijacked near Somalia
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16:05, September 16, 2008

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Armed pirates have hijacked a Hong Kong chemical tanker with 22 crew members in the Gulf of Aden near Somalia's dangerous waters, a regional maritime official confirmed on Tuesday.

Andrew Mwangura, the East Africa Coordinator of Seafarers Assistance Program (SAP) said the vessel was seized on Monday, making it the 12th vessel to be hijacked in the pirate-infested waterway since July 20.

"The Hong Kong chemical tanker was hijacked by pirates on Monday, en route to Asia. The ship was seized in the same place others have fallen similar fate," Mwangura told Xinhua by telephone.

Maritime official said the Hong Kong ship was sailing in a maritime security corridor in the gulf patrolled by an international coalition of warships and aircraft when it was attacked.

The attack came hours after the French army killed a Somali pirate in operations which led to the release of two French nationals in the notorious Gulf of Aden on Monday.

The Venezuelan-registered boat, Carre d'as, was captured in the Gulf of Aden two weeks ago and was taken to Somalia's northern semi-autonomous Puntland region.

Pirates have stepped up attacks on merchant vessels in the Gulf of Aden, as Somalia's current transitional government has failed to shackle the pirates in the key commercial shipping lane.

An international maritime organization has sounded the alarm over the upsurge of hijacking incidents on the Gulf of Aden where more than 50 Filipino seafarers have been abducted since July.

The warning was issued by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) which has alerted all vessels to "maintain a strict 24 hour look out" as they pass through the Gulf of Aden, located off the coast of Somalia.

The Gulf of Aden, an important waterway for shipping, is within the Arabian Sea. It is between Yemen on the south coast of the Arabian Peninsula and Somalia in the Horn of Africa. It connects with the Red Sea through the Babel Mandeb strait in the northwest.


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