Gunmen attack tanker off Nigeria

2012-03-01 07:34
Kuala Lumpur - Heavily armed gunmen fired on an oil tanker off the coast of Nigeria in the latest in a spate of pirate attacks in the increasingly treacherous Gulf of Guinea, a maritime watchdog said on Thursday.

The Panamanian-flagged, Nigerian-owned vessel thwarted an attempted boarding by taking evasive action during the attack, which occurred on Wednesday at about 23:00, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said.

It came one day after pirates shot their way onto a Dutch-owned cargo vessel in the area and kidnapped three hostages including the captain, according to the IMB's Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting centre.

Noel Choong, who heads the centre, said no further details were available on the most recent incident, warning that the attackers may still be in the area.

The assault occurred about 148km south of the Nigerian coast, the centre said.

The IMB, which is funded by ship-owners, warned in September that the area's waters were emerging as a new piracy "hotspot" due to the weak enforcement capabilities of governments in the region.

Before the latest attack, Choong said the piracy centre had received reports of seven attacks off Nigeria and one off neighbouring Benin since January 01, adding that many more may have gone unreported.

The Nigerian Navy said on Wednesday that it had deployed vessels to search for the Dutch-owned cargo ship involved in the attack that saw the hostages taken.

It was not clear who had control of the vessel and authorities have not yet released details on the hostages, such as their nationalities.

Two weeks ago pirates fired on a Taiwanese-owned cargo vessel off Nigeria, killing the captain, according to the IMB, which said the vessel's chief engineer also died from a fall during the attack.

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