Pirates have hijacked two more ships off the coast of Somalia, an
Iranian cargo vessel, and a Japanese-operated tanker. As Derek Kilner
reports from VOA's East Africa bureau in Nairobi, the attacks are the
latest in a string of attacks in the busy and dangerous shipping
The latest attacks, which took place within an hour
of each other, follow the hijacking Wednesday of a Malaysian tanker
with 39 crew members aboard. Six ships have now been seized by pirates
in the Gulf of Aden, between Somalia and Yemen, in the past month.
Mwangura, of the East Africa Seafarers Assistance Program in Kenya,
said the three most recent attacks were likely carried out by the same
group of Somali pirates.
"We think this must be the same group
because the modus operandi they used is the same," he said. "I think
this must be the so-called "Somali Marines". We haven't made any
communication, we are waiting to do it later in the evening."
official with the International Maritime Bureau in Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia, Noel Choong, said there were 19 crew members aboard the
Japanese ship. The number on the Iranian boat is unknown. Choong said
an international naval task force operating in the region had been
The Malaysian ship hijacked on Wednesday is thought to
be headed toward the town of Eyl, a base for pirates in the
semi-autonomous region of Puntland, in the north of Somalia.
has long been a major problem in the Gulf of Aden, where a busy
shipping corridor connecting the Indian Ocean with the Red Sea, passes
by lawless Somalia, which has been without a central government since
In a potentially lucrative enterprise, pirates regularly
seize cargo ships and their crew, demanding ransom payments. Earlier
this month, Thai and Nigerian ships were hijacked. A Japanese vessel
was seized in July.
The threat of piracy has also complicated
the delivery of humanitarian aid to Somalia, where lawlessness and
banditry have made overland transport increasingly difficult.
million people have been displaced by a conflict between the struggling
provisional government, backed by Ethiopian troops, and Islamist-led
insurgents, in what U.N. officials have called Africa's worst
The U.N. Security Council voted in June
to allow international warships to go after pirates operating in
Somalia's waters, but there has so far been little increase in the
international naval presence.