Kidnappers in the Gulf of Guinea are demanding more than $15,000 for the release of seven Chinese fishermen abducted off the coast of Cameroon.
The previously-unknown Africa Marine Commando group kidnapped the seven Chinese fishermen in international waters off the Bakassi Peninsula, which separates Nigeria from Cameroon.
Cameroonian security officials says the kidnappers are demanding between $15,000 and $20,000 ransom. Those officials have been contacted by members of the Chinese Embassy in Yaounde, who they say are ready to pay, but Cameroon's government says it opposes the idea.
The official Chinese news agency quotes embassy officials as saying they believe the lives of the fishermen are not in danger, and kidnappers are giving them food and water.
Xinhua says two fishing vessels from China's Dalian Beihai Fishing Company were also attacked and robbed Friday, but the ships returned to the port of Limbe with two slightly injured sailors.
Piracy is on the rise in the Gulf of Guinea. While still not as common or as lucrative as Somali piracy, maritime analysts say West Africa's weak surveillance and growing number of oil fields make it a prime target for lawlessness.
Pirates attacked an oil tanker off the coast of Benin in November, killing a Ukrainian sailor and stealing the contents of the ship's safe. Ten oil sector workers, including seven French nationals, were kidnapped in 2008 by a group calling itself the Bakassi Freedom Fighters.
A rapid response unit of the Cameroonian army last October killed four pirates and wounded four others in the Bakassi peninsula.