Ship hijacked, 24 Indians taken hostage

Ship hijacked, 24 Indians taken hostage

The 22,000 tonne bulk carrier, MV Al Khaliq, was seized by the pirates in waters off Somalia, Noel Choong, head of the piracy reporting centre of maritime watchdog International Maritime Bureau (IMB), said.

A second carrier, the 32,000 tonne Italian vessel Jolly Rosso, also came under fire from pirates in the north of Seychelles, but the hijack bid was unsuccessful.

“There were 26 crew on board, 24 of whom are Indian and two Burmese,” a spokeswoman for NATO’s anti-piracy mission in London has been quoted by AFP as saying.

NATO’s closest ship in the Somali basin was eight hours away from the Al Khaliq when it was seized.

The EU’s anti-piracy naval force has said in a statement that the incident took place 180 nautical miles west of Seychelles. They said six pirates are on board the ship, which is being followed by “two attack skiffs (boats)”.

Somalia’s dreaded pirates were responsible for over half of the 306 attacks against ships worldwide in the first nine months of this year and continue to hold at least two Indians as hostage. The number of attacks globally in the nine-month period surpassed the total of 293 cases recorded in all of 2008, the  IMB said.

Pirates from the war-torn country of Somalia have been blamed for the spike in the number of cases reported in the Gulf of Aden, from 51 in the January-September period of 2008 to 100 this year. In the Somali coast, 47 incidents were reported this year against 12 last year.

The Somali pirates have also extended their reach to the southern region of the Red Sea, the East Coast of Oman and the Bab el Mandab Straits.

In total, they were responsible for 168 attacks in the first three quarters of this year. They have succeeded in hijacking 32 vessels and holding 533 crew hostage. As of September 30, the IMB said four vessels with over 80 crew were still being held pending negotiation.

Two Indians are among an unspecified number of crew on board a ship, ‘MV Kota Wajar’, which was hijacked by Somali pirates on October 15 in the Indian Ocean.Pacific International, the Singapore-based shipping company, has assured India that it was negotiating with the hijackers for the safe release of the crew.