Hijackers seize Jordanian ship off the Somali coast

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A ship manned by Kenyan, Tanzanian and Asian crew members was hijacked off the Mogadishu Port in Somalia by suspected Somali pirates Sunday morning.

The Kenya News Agency (KNA) reports that the vessel, heading to India from Mogadishu, was hijacked about 40 nautical miles off the Mogadishu Port at dawn Sunday. It was ferrying 4,000 tonnes of sugar ands other humanitarian cargo to India.

The incident was confirmed by Kenya Seafarers Association programmes officer, Alfred Mwangura, in the port city of Mombasa.

Mwangura said reports from Somalia, Kenya’s volatile eastern neighbour, indicated that armed pirates on three small boats boarded the Jordanian-registered vessel which was sailing north, towards Habyo, about 500km north of the Somalia capital, Mogadishu.

By late Sunday, Mwangura said the hijacked ship’s destination and the fate of crew members remained uncertain. Marine and security authorities lost contact with the ship early Sunday, when it was 35 km off the Somali shore.

By late Sunday, Jordanian authorities were coordinating search and rescue efforts with the Danish Embassy in Mogadishu.

Denmark has an agreement with Jordan under which it protects Jordanian-registered marine vessels passing through or anchored off Mogadishu, according to Mwangura. It was the second pirate attack on the vessel off the Somalia shore.

The ship escaped unscathed from a similar attack in the Somali port of Merka, after pirates tried to board it.

A Jordanian official, Al Batayneh, has directed Jordanian-flagged ships to avoid the Somali coast. Piracy is rampant along the 1,880-mile Somali coast, the longest in Africa and near key shipping routes connecting the Red Sea with the Indian Ocean.

This year alone, there have been more than a dozen pirate attacks off the Somalia coast. But in a strange twist in the criminal saga, Somali officials are blaming shipping companies from the West for paying ransom to the criminals – a move they said encourages instead of deterring piracy.

Last month, the United States and France introduced a UN resolution that would allow countries to chase and arrest pirates off Somalia’s coast. The resolution followed recent attacks on French, Spanish, Japanese-registered vessels, among others.

Several factors contribute to the rise in piracy and other criminal activities in the war-ravaged Somalia, among them hyperinflation and food shortages.

The arid Horn of Africa nation is awash with weapons, but the transitional government has failed to exert any real control.

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