Somali pirates seize Malaysian ship
Nairobi - Somali pirates have hijacked a Malaysian-flagged container ship, with a crew of 23, off the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, a regional maritime watchdog said on Tuesday.
The MV Albedo container vessel was en route from the United Arab Emirates to Kenya when it was hijacked on Friday despite sailing around the Seychelles, no less than 900 nautical miles east of the Somali coast.
"MV Albedo has a crew of 23 from Pakistan, Iran, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh" and is being commandeered towards central Somalia, said Ecoterra International, an environmental group monitoring maritime activity in the region.
Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur, also told AFP that the seized vessel was sailing towards Somalia.
"We believe the ship is heading towards the Somali coast. Naval forces are monitoring the hijacked ship," he said.
Choong said pirates now held 23 vessels and 531 hostages, and he expressed concern over the long-range attack on the ship by Somali pirates.
"It will not be easy to eradicate the pirates. The risk (of) being caught is low and the returns are high. Piracy off Somali waters will flourish," he warned.
In 2008 Somali pirates hijacked two Malaysian-owned ships, which were released after payment of a ransom.
Naval powers have deployed dozens of warships to patrol the region's waters but they have failed to stem piracy, one of the few thriving businesses for coastal communities in Somalia, a country devastated by war and poverty.
Over the past two years, marauding sea-jackers on skiffs equipped with RPGs, ladders and grapnels have moved away from the heavily patrolled Gulf of Aden and expanded their area of operations east and south in the Indian Ocean.