Nightly News   |  October 24, 2013

Skyrocketing pirate attacks offshore of Nigeria

The constant flow of massive cargo ships in the Gulf of Guinea has become a fertile hunting ground for pirates. NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> peoples are at the center of a drama on the high seas tonight. they have been kidnapped by pirates off the coast of nigeria . what it will take to set them free tonight is anyone's guess. as jim miklaszewski reports the kidnapping happened in an area where ocean going criminals have been stepping up attacks.

>> reporter: in a brazen attack pirates kidnapped two americans off the oil supply ship. the u.s. flag sea retriever. once on board the heavily armed band of pirates singled out the americans. the captain and engineer and took them ashore as hostages. it happened in the gulf of guinea offshore from nigeria . with its vast network of oil rigs and constant flow of mass sieve cargo ships this is a fertile hunt ing ground for pirates . while piracy dropped to the lowest levels in a decade, the number of pirate attacks off nigeria skyrocketed by more than 30% so far this year. nbc news sailed with navy admiral terry mcknight, the first kmapder of a multinational task force that hunts down pirates off east africa and the gulf of aidan. mcknight says with no such counter piracy cargo ships are easy picking for pirates .

>> if there are no policemen on the beats they have free reign out there.

>> reporter: one of the most notorious acts of piracy is now a hit movie. captain richard phillips was taken off his ship by somali pirates and held for five days before he was rescued by navy s.e.a.l.s. the navy kept phillips and his captives in their sights. today they have disappeared.

>> it is an impos bable situation.

>> reporter: over the past few years nigerian pirates kidnapped 32 hostages. most were released after ransoms were paid. it's not clear there has been a demand for he's two. the u.s. company that ownerships the ship is not talking. jim miklaszewski , nbc news, the pentagon.