NAIROBI (AFP) — Pirates on Saturday hijacked a Jordanian-flagged cargo ship off Somalia, the latest in a series of pirate attacks in the area this year, a Kenyan maritime official told AFP.
The vessel, Victoria, was seized about 40 nautical miles off the capital Mogadishu, said Andrew Mwangura of the Kenyan branch of the Seafarers' Assistance Programme.
"The ship was seized by the pirates at about 6:00 a.m. (0300 GMT) today in Somalia. It is now sailing northwards," he told AFP.
Earlier in the day, Jordanian Transport Minister Alaa Batayneh said the vessel, owned by a Emirati company, was carrying 4,200 tonnes of sugar donated by Denmark to the people of war-torn Somalia.
"It was going from India to Mogadishu when contact was lost," Batayneh said, adding that the crew included Bangladeshis, Indians, Kenyans, Pakistanis, Somalis and Tanzanians.
"The ministries of transport and foreign affairs are coordinating with the concerned parties to secure the release of the boat and its crew," the official said, adding that contact was being made with the Danish embassy in Mogadishu.
Mwangura said there were "at least 12 crew members on the ship when it was hijacked."
Last month Somali pirates hijacked a French luxury yacht, Le Ponant, and its crew of 30 for a week. It was released on April 11 when French security forces pursued some of the suspected pirates and captured six who were than taken to France where they were charged by a Paris court.
A Spanish fishing boat was also seized in the same region and held for six days after after a 1.2 million-dollar ransom was paid.
The coastal waters off Somalia -- which has not had an effective central government for more than 17 years and is plagued by insecurity -- are considered among the most dangerous in the world.
More than 25 ships were seized in Somali coastal waters last year despite US navy patrols, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
France and the United States have presented a text before the UN Security Council seeking to authorise states to send warships into Somalia's territorial waters to combat piracy.
Somalia lies at the mouth of the Red Sea on a major trade route between Asia and Europe via the Suez canal. It has not had a functional government since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.
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