Pirates dodge warships in Gulf of Aden, hijack 3 more vessels

Associated Press / April 7, 2009
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NAIROBI, Kenya - Pirates hijacked three vessels in less than two days, diplomats and officials said yesterday, with the pattern of attacks suggesting the pirates are trying to evade warships patrolling the Gulf of Aden.

The Taiwanese ship Win Far 161 was seized early yesterday near an island in the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, said Lieutenant Nathan Christensen, a spokesman for America's Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet.

The 30 crewmen comprised 17 Filipinos, six Indonesians, five Chinese and two Taiwanese, according to a Taiwan Foreign Ministry statement. It was the second attack in the Seychelles within a week.

A small Yemeni boat was also hijacked in the Indian Ocean Sunday and a 35,000-ton British-owned bulk carrier, the Malaspina Castle, was hijacked early yesterday in the Gulf of Aden, officials said.

The hijacking of the Taiwanese vessel and Yemeni boat are the latest in a series of attacks in the Indian Ocean. A 20,000-ton German container ship, the Hansa Stavanger, was also seized there on Saturday.

Analysts say the pirates have moved many of their operations out of the Gulf of Aden, which is heavily patrolled by naval warships from countries including China, the United States, France and India.

Instead, they are targeting ships coming out of the Mozambique Channel, an area of the Indian Ocean further south between the southeastern Africa coast and Madagascar.

The Brussels-based European antipiracy force said the Malaspina Castle was carrying iron and had 24 people on board from Bulgaria, the Philippines, Russia and Ukraine.

Lloyd's Marine Intelligence Unit said the ship was managed by BNavi SpA of Italy and owned by Navalmar UK Ltd. A Nairobi-based diplomat said the ship flies a Panamanian flag.

The Yemeni boat had seven crew on board when it was hijacked, an official with Yemen's Interior Ministry said yesterday. Authorities received a distress call from the captain saying his boat was being hijacked in the Indian Ocean on Sunday, the official said.

The diplomats and officials spoke on condition of anonymity.

Although small boats like the Yemeni fishing vessel do not fetch large ransoms, the pirates often use such boats as 'mother ships', which tow the small speedboats the prates use hundreds of miles out to sea.