Somali pirates seize tanker

MOGADISHU - Somali pirates hijacked a UK-flagged chemical tanker in the Gulf of Aden on the same day they released a Singapore-flagged container ship, pirates and maritime officials said yesterday.

MOGADISHU - Somali pirates hijacked a UK-flagged chemical tanker in the Gulf of Aden on the same day they released a Singapore-flagged container ship, pirates and maritime officials said yesterday.

Pirates said they had received a ransom for the Kota Wajar and freed it on Monday. The release was confirmed by the EU naval force patrolling waters off Somalia.

"We have received $4million (R30million) and released the ship and its 21 crew," pirate Mohamed said.

"The crew were happy and clapping when our friends got down from the ship."

The 24637-tonne Kota Wajar was seized on October 15 north of the Seychelles archipelago as it was sailing to the Kenyan port of Mombasa from Singapore.

EU Navfor said the Canadian warship HMCS Fredericton was now providing medical and logistical help.

Andrew Mwangura of the Kenya-based East Africa Seafarers' Association said yesterday pirates had seized the St James Park a day earlier and the ship had changed course for the Somali coast.

He said the St James Park and its 26 crew were sailing to Thailand from Spain with a chemical used to make plastics when it sent a distress signal from the Gulf of Aden.

The crew are from Bulgaria Georgia, India, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.

Somalia has been mired in anarchy since 1991 which has allowed piracy to flourish in the busy shipping lanes linking Europe to Asia.

The gangs have made tens of millions of dollars hijacking vessels and holding them until a ransom is paid, despite patrols by foreign navies.

The patrols have reduced the number of hijackings in the Gulf of Aden this year and pirates have seized vessels far into the Indian Ocean to maintain the lucrative business.

At least 10 foreign vessels and 228 seafarers are being held. - Reuters

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