West African pirates kidnap French oilmen
Six Frenchmen were onboard an oil industry support vessel seized by heavily-armed pirates off the coast of Cameroon.
31 October 2008
YAOUNDE - Heavily-armed pirates swarmed aboard an oil industry support vessel working off the coast of Cameroon and kidnapped 10 crew members, including six Frenchmen, the French foreign ministry said Friday.
Earlier, the ship's owner had said seven French nationals were taken.
The "Bourbon Sagitta" was stormed overnight as it took part in an operation to load crude oil onto a tanker in the Gulf of Guinea, near Cameroon's maritime frontier with Nigeria, the shipping firm Bourbon told AFP in Marseille.
"Armed individuals aboard two 'flying boats' boarded the ship and took 10 of the 15 members of the crew," a spokesman said, using the term employed in West Africa for the fast fibreglass skiffs typically used by pirate gangs.
Along with the Frenchmen, a Tunisian and two Cameroonian sailors were also taken, the company spokesman said. No-one was thought to have been hurt in the raid, and the five remaining sailors have been safely recovered.
"The crisis centre and the French consulate in Douala are in contact with the company employing our citizens and with their families," the foreign ministry in Paris said in a statement.
A diplomat in the Cameroonian capital Yaounde said the ship was working under contract for the French oil giant Total. A company source said Total was holding a crisis meeting in Paris.
According to the diplomat, the attack took place near the Bakassi Peninsula, on Cameroon's border with Nigeria, and bore the hallmarks of raids carried out by Nigerian pirates operating in the Niger Delta oilfields.
The Bourbon Sagitta is a 2,000-tonne, 65-metre Anchor Handling Tug Supply Vessel, a type of ship used to haul anchors and drilling equipment in offshore oil fields. It was built in China's Dayang shipyard in 2006.
[AFP / Expatica]