Thursday, November 4, 2010

Somali pirates capture Comoros-bound passenger ship

Somali pirates have seized the Comoran-flagged ship Aly Zoulfecar with nine crew members and 20 passengers on board, a spokesman for the European Union's Atalanta anti-piracy mission said.

The vessel had been on its way from the Tanzanian port city of Dar es Salaam to the Indian Ocean island of Comoros when it was seized on Wednesday. Its captain sent a radio message that the ship was under control of the pirates, according to the Atalanta spokesman.

More details about the raid were not immediately available.

Pirates on the Somali coast are currently holding at least 30 ships with more than 550 people on board, according to the non- governmental organization Ecoterra - the highest number of pirate hostages to be detained so far, the group said on Thursday.

One of those being held, a Yemeni officer captured in March aboard the MS Iceberg 1, has died, according to the ship's owner. Three other crew members were said to be 'in very bad shape' after months of captivity.

Piracy off the Somali coast is considered to be the most dangerous in the world, with the International Maritime Bureau saying that 60 per cent of all ship captures so far this year have been carried out by Somali pirates.

The chaos-ridden Horn of Africa nation has been without an effective central government since 1991.

International warships patrolling the Gulf of Aden have only had limited success in curtailing piracy. Pirates have also taken to seizing ships far off the Somali coast in the Indian Ocean.