Somali pirates hijack ship with 24 Syrian, Egyptian crew: EU

Aug 5th, 2010 | By admin | Category: Featured

BRUSSELS (AFP) — Somali pirates seized a freighter with 24 Syrian and Egyptian crew members in the Gulf of Aden on Thursday, the European Union’s anti-piracy force said.

The Syria Star, flagged in Saint Vincent and Grenadines, radioed for help and “reported that she was under attack from pirates who had climbed onboard and fired shots at the crew,” said the European Union NAVFOR Somalia mission.

Helicopters were dispatched and tried to establish contact with the ship, which had stopped in the water, but they found only an abandoned skiff nearby containing fuel and ammunition, the force said in a statement.

“When warships arrived on the scene shortly after, the Syria Star had reversed course and was heading South East back towards the Horn of Africa under the control of the pirates, who refused to respond to radio contact.”

Foreign naval powers have deployed dozens of warships since 2008 in a bid to secure the Gulf, a crucial maritime route leading to the Suez Canal through which tens of thousands of merchant vessels transit each year.

But pirates have gradually extended their area of operations, seizing ships as far east as the Maldives’ territorial waters and as far south as the Canal of Mozambique.

Naval missions, including the European Union’s Atalanta deployment, have boasted success in curbing attacks but the number of hijacked ships and detained seafarers remains at one of its highest levels since Somali piracy surged in 2007.

Unofficial figures show 2009 was the most prolific year yet for Somali pirates, with more than 200 attacks — including 68 successful hijackings — and ransoms believed to exceed 50 million dollars in total.

© 2010 AFP

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