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Relatives of Italian Seamen Seized in Somalia Await News of Captives

Relatives of Italian seamen seized by pirates off Somalia are anxiously awaiting word of the fate of their loved ones. The Italian-flagged tugboat, the Buccaneer, was hijacked Saturday in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia's northern coast.

The 16-member crew of the Italian-flagged Buccaneer tug was seized Saturday in the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden. Ten members of the crew, including the commander, are Italian, five are Romanian and one is Croatian.

Silvio Bartolotti, owner of shipping company Micoperi, has said these are pirates and are looking for money. However, he added that no ransom had been demanded yet.

Bartolotti says he learned of the hijack when he received an e-mail from the tug-boat which said they were being attacked by pirates.

Alessandra Costanzo, the wife of the tugboat's commander, said Monday she is hoping for the best but has no news at this stage although she is in contact both with the Micoperi shipping company and the crisis unit of the Foreign Ministry.

Both the shipping company and the Foreign Ministry are no longer releasing any information to the media while negotiations to free the seamen are underway. The Italian navy ship Maestrale on Sunday reached the area where the tug was seized.

Italian officials are reportedly working to coordinate efforts with Somalia's transitional government in a bid to free the crew.

U.S. Navy Seals on Sunday rescued an American sea captain being held at gunpoint by Somali pirates for several days. Three pirates were killed. This has led other pirates to announce that they will kill hostages in the future. They have vowed retaliation, raising fears for the safety of some 230 foreign sailors still held on more than a dozen ships anchored off the coast of Somalia.