Somali pirates seize Panama-flagged ship off Somalia

20:57, October 22, 2009      

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Somali pirates have hijacked a Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier in the pirate-infected waters off Somali coast with 26 crew members aboard, a regional maritime official confirmed on Thursday.

Andrew Mwangura, the East Africa's Coordinator of Seafarers Assistance Program (SAP) said the MV Al Khaliq headed for the Kenyan port of Mombasa with 24 Indians and two nationals of Myanmar aboard when it was seized on early Thursday.

"The MV Al Khaliq with Panamanian flag was hijacked early this morning in the Indian Ocean waters with 26 crew members," Mwangura told Xinhua by telephone from Mombasa.

Mwangura also said the pirates also attempted to attack a second carrier, the 32,000-ton Italian vessel Jolly Rosso, as it was sailing north of the Seychelles.

"The Italian Jolly Ross managed to evade the pirates as the vessel was sailing north of the Seychelles," Mwangura said.

The latest attack off the coast of Somalia brought to 47 the number of shipjacking cases this year despite the presence of multi-national navy forces in the world's most dangerous waters.

The latest figures published by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) on Thursday indicated a sharp rise in the attacks in Somali waters, compared with the 12 cases reported in the same period in 2008.

According to the IMB, piracy worldwide mounted 306 attacks from January 1 until September 30, compared with 293 in all of 2008. Of the incidents this year, Somali pirates accounted for 54 percent after launching 168 attacks.

The bureau said most of them took place off the east coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, a major shipping route between Yemen and Somalia.

The Somali pirates successfully hijacked 32 vessels and took 533 people hostage.

An estimated 25,000 ships annually cruise the Gulf of Aden, off the Somali northern coast. Over 10 ships and 200 crew members are still held by Somali pirates.

The Gulf of Aden, off the northern coast of Somalia, has the highest risk of piracy in the world.

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