Sep 5, 2012 / 6:47 am
Pirates attacked and seized an oil tanker off the coast of Nigeria's largest city, the country's navy said Wednesday, kidnapping an unknown number of sailors who were trying to hide from their assailants.
The pirates targeted the MT Abu Dhabi Star, which was anchored 80 kilometres (50 miles) off the coast of Lagos, the country's biggest port, said Commodore Kabir Aliyu, a spokesman for Nigeria's navy. The sailors onboard sent distress signals as the pirates boarded the ship Tuesday night, with their last message indicating they had locked themselves inside a panic room on the vessel, Aliyu said.
The oil tanker, flagged out of Singapore, is operated by Pioneer Ship Management Services LLC, a company with offices in Dubai. The company said in a statement that it lost radio contact with the tanker on Wednesday.
"Pioneer have since received contact from the crew onboard the vessel and can confirm that all crew members are currently reported to be safe and uninjured, but that the vessel has been boarded by suspected pirates," the statement read.
Pioneer said it had not received any ransom demands for its crew. The company did not say how many sailors were onboard the vessel nor did it give their nationalities.
The attack mirrored two others carried out in recent days in waters off the coast of Togo. In both of those cases, the crew were released unharmed after pirates ransacked the vessels and stole the gasoline or oil onboard the ship, according to the International Maritime Bureau, which tracks piracy across the world.
Pirates in West Africa have been more willing to use violence in their robberies, as they target the cargo, not the crew for ransom as is the case off Somalia. Experts say many of the pirates come from Nigeria, where corrupt law enforcement allows criminality to thrive.
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