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Vietnam Tanker Freed, Indonesian Pirates Blamed

The Vietnam-flagged oil tanker that vanished from radar last week is heading to the southern port of Vung Tau after being freed by pirates.

Deputy Captain Pham Van Hoang told VOA’s Vietnamese Service Thursday that he believed Indonesian pirates carried out the attack on the ship called Sunrise 689 shortly after its departure from a port in Singapore.

“Masked pirates speaking the Indonesian language stormed the vessel," said Pham. "They were armed with knives and guns. They hit us and pointed their guns at the captain, then restrained and pushed us all into a room."

He said pirates took about 2,000 tons of oil products, nearly a third of what the ship was carrying, before releasing the ship. Two of the vessel's 18 crew were injured.

Nguyen Vu Diep, official from the company which owns the vessel, told VOA’s Vietnamese Service that he was told of the hijacking.

“Two crew members were injured but are not in serious conditions," said Nguyen. "The pirates destroyed all the communications and navigation machines, so the sailors did not know where they were when they were released."

The disappearance of the ship had prompted a multinational search-and-rescue operation.

Nguyen Thi Thu Lan, the wife of one of the crew members, told VOA’s Vietnamese Service that her husband called her to say he is fine and would head home soon.

“I am relieved. He told me pirates attacked them and dumped all the equipment into the sea," said Nguyen. "There was nothing left.”

All 18 members of the tanker crew are Vietnamese nationals.

Pirate attacks recently have increased in Southeast Asia, where the International Maritime Bureau says at least 12 ships have been hijacked since April.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.