Somali pirates hijack cargo vessel near India

/ Source: The Associated Press

Pirates have captured a cargo vessel about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) east of Somalia, the European Union's anti-piracy force said Sunday.

The EU Naval Force said the attack took place only 550 miles (880 kilometers) from the coast of India.

Pirates launched the Saturday attack from two skiffs that were supported by a mother ship. The pirates fired small arms and rocket-propelled grenades at the MV Renuar, a Panama-flagged, Liberian-owned cargo vessel. The EU Naval Force said the condition of the 24 Filipino crew members is not known.

Somali pirates are extending the range of their attacks to avoid encounters with the EU Naval Force patrolling shipping lanes nearer Somalia's coast.

The EU Naval Force said on Friday pirates hijacked a U.S.-operated ship just east of the Tanzania-Mozambique border, making it one of the most southerly attacks Somali pirates have pulled off.

All 23 crew members on the MV Panama were from Myanmar. The EU Naval Force had no information about their condition.

In Dhaka, Bangladesh, the owner of a Bangladesh-flagged ship hijacked a week ago by pirates said Sunday that all 25 crew members and the wife of a sailor were safe.

Shipping company owner Mohammad Shahjahan said the hijacked M.V. Jahan Moni was anchored off the Somali coast. Shahjahan said he spoke to two crewmen and the sailor's wife twice by telephone on Sunday.

All the Bangladeshis were confined in the wheel room on the top of the ship, "but they are safe," Shahjahan told reporters. He said the pirates had not yet made a ransom demand for the release of the ship and those aboard.

The Bangladeshi ship carrying nickel ore was hijacked in the Arabian Sea off the Indian coast as it was heading from Singapore to Greece. It had loaded its cargo in Indonesia.

Somali pirates currently hold more than 500 crew members from more than 20 ships. Hostages and ships have been held for months and released only for multimillion-dollar ransoms.

Somalia has been mired in anarchy since 1991, enabling piracy to thrive off its Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden coasts. A multinational force patrols the seas, but the vast distances and pirates' ability to attack farther offshore mean hijackings have continued.