Pirates capture German tanker, 22 crew: EU force

8th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Suspected Somali pirates on Saturday hijacked a German-owned chemical tanker and 22 crew firing heavy artillery during a dramatic boarding, a European naval force said on Saturday.

The crew of the Marida Marguerite -- made up of 19 Indians, two Bangladeshis and a Ukrainian -- were nevertheless said to be "well" by the anti-piracy naval task force, citing radio contact.

"The ship was approached by a pirate skiff firing automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades and the crew reported that they saw the pirates climbing onboard," said a statement from EU-NAVFOR headquarters.

"It is believed that all (on board) are well," it said. "A passing merchant ship tried to make contact by VHF radio but received a response from the bridge of the hijacked vessel to 'go away'."

The 13,000-tonne Marida Marguerite, sailing under the flag of the Marshall Islands, was captured 120 nautical miles (220 kilometres) south of Salalah, in Oman, the EU mission said.

In a separate incident, Somali pirates captured a Taiwanese fishing boat off the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Seychelles, a maritime observer said earlier on Saturday.

It had a crew of 26 including nine Chinese and an unspecified number of Kenyans, Mozambicans and Taiwanese.

In a statement, Taiwan's foreign ministry said that contact was made on Friday with the pirates who made an unspecified ransom demand.

That hijacking took to at least 25 the number of ships now held by ransom-seeking pirates, according to Ecoterra International, an environmentalist group monitoring maritime activity in the region.

More than 400 seamen are being held hostage, the highest number since an surge in Somali piracy in 2007.

Russian marines on Thursday stormed a hijacked Russian oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden in a daring early morning raid, killing one of the Somali pirates aboard and capturing another ten.

The capture of the Moscow University was a jolt to the international anti-piracy system put in place along one of the world's busiest shipping routes.

Heavily armed and equipped with GPS navigation and satellite phones, pirates raked in an estimated 60 million dollars in ransoms last year.

© 2010 AFP

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