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Somali Pirates Highjack 20,000 ton German Tank

The Daily Nation reported that Somali pirates hijacked a 20,000 ton German container vessel Sunday in their latest attack on the Indian Ocean’s busy commercial shipping lanes, a regional maritime group said.

The heavily armed gangs from the lawless Horn of Africa nation hijacked dozens of vessels. Last year, they did the same in the Gulf of Aden, taking hundreds of sailors hostage and making off with millions of dollars in ransoms.

Foreign navies have continuously rushed warships to the area in response, but there are still hijacking attempts almost daily. The navies reduced the number of successful attempts, however.

The latest happened Saturday, about 400 miles off the southern Somali port of Kismayu, which is between the Seychelles and Kenya, said Andrew Mwangura of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers’ Assistance Program.

“We believe the German ship has 24 crew on board. We’re trying to establish their identities and the name of the vessel,” Mwangura told Reuters. (Daily Nation)

Somali pirates took two European-owned tankers late last month. Last week, pirates hijacked a second vessel flying the Indian Ocean nation’s flag. The Seychelles military then deployed security forces on its outer islands.

The pirates typically use speed boats launched from mother ships to take the captured vessels to remote coastal village bases in Somalia, where their hostages have awaited a large payment of ransom money.

In January, Somali gunmen freed the Sirius Star, a Saudi supertanker loaded with $100 million worth of crude oil, and its crew of 25 after $3 million was parachuted onto its deck.

They also hijacked a Ukrainian cargo ship in September, which carried 33 Soviet-era T-72 tanks. It was released in February for a $3.2 million ransom.

The arrival of high-tech foreign warships in the waters off their country has made their work more dangerous, pirates said.

One gang member, who wished to remain anonymous, told Reuters News he had been part of an aborted attack on another large commercial vessel late Saturday.

“We opened fire on a ship near the Gulf of Aden, but our ladder was too short to climb up,” he said. “It escaped at high speed. We were nine pirates in two speed boats and immediately we came back. We feared attacks by the warships.” (Reuters)