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Pirates hijack Jordanian ship off Somali coast

/ Source: The Associated Press

Somali pirates hijacked a Jordanian ship Saturday in the latest in a string of attacks off the lawless Somali coast, the head of a seafarer's association said.

Andrew Mwangura of the East Africa Seafarers Assistance Program said the attack occurred early Saturday morning. He could not say how many crew were aboard, but said Kenyans, Tanzanians and some Asians were among them. The pirates seized the ship not far from the Somali capital of Mogadishu and were taking it north, he said.

Peter Smerdon, spokesman for the World Food Program, said the ship had been due to unload its commercial cargo of sugar in Somalia before returning to Kenya and picking up WFP supplies for Somalia.

It is the second time the ship has been attacked. Pirates tried to board it outside the Somali port of Merka last year but the ship, called the Victoria, managed to escape.

Piracy is rampant along Somalia's 1,880-mile coast, which is the longest in Africa and near key shipping routes connecting the Red Sea with the Indian Ocean. There have been more than a dozen pirate attacks this year alone.

Somali officials have blamed Western companies, accusing them of paying ransoms that can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars and, in so doing, encouraging more hijackings.

Last month, the United States and France introduced a U.N. resolution that would allow countries to chase and arrest pirates off Somalia's coast. The resolution came in response to recent attacks on French, Spanish, Japanese and other vessels.

War-ravaged Somalia is also being hit hard by hyperinflation and food shortages. The arid Horn of Africa nation is awash with weapons, but the transitional government has failed to exert any real control.