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Last Updated: Friday, 21 October 2005, 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
Pirates hijack ship off Somalia
The MV Semlow, which was released this month after being held by hijackers for 100 days
Several ships carrying UN food aid have been hijacked
Pirates have seized a cargo ship off the coast of Somalia, local officials have confirmed.

They said the Maltese-registered ship, Pagania, was attacked late on Wednesday as it sailed from South Africa to Europe with a cargo of iron ore.

The hijackers are reportedly demanding a $700,000 (394,000) ransom for the release of the ship and its crew, all believed to be Ukrainian.

More than 20 ships have been seized or attacked in the area since March.

The International Maritime Bureau - which records such attacks - has recently advised ships "to keep as far away as possible from the Somali coast".

A UN-chartered ship carrying food aid to tsunami victims in northern Somalia, the MV Semlow, was released this month, after being held by hijackers for 100 days.

'Crew unharmed'

Andrew Mwangura of the Seafarers' Assistance Programme from Kenya's port of Mombasa said the vessel was seized some 167km off the Somali coast.

RECENT HIJACKINGS
MV Miltzow: 12 Oct - 14 Oct
MV Toregelow: 8 Oct
Ibnu Batuta: 26 Sep - 3 Oct
MV Semlow: 27 June - 3 Oct

"They are demanding $700,000," Mr Mwanguara told the AFP news agency.

Officials in Somali's capital, Mogadishu, confirmed the incident.

A spokesman for the Ukrainian foreign ministry was quoted by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency as saying the ship's 22-strong crew were all Ukrainian nationals.

The spokesman, Dmytro Svystkov, said that contact with the ship's captain had been established and all the crew were unharmed.

International maritime officials say Somali waters are some of the world's most dangerous.

Somalia's transitional prime minister has recently asked neighbouring countries to send warships to patrol the coast.

Somalia has not had a functioning central government since 1991.


SEE ALSO:
Somalia's dangerous waters
26 Sep 05 |  Africa
Somalia - where the gun rules
09 Feb 05 |  Africa
New demands from Somali pirates
22 Sep 05 |  Africa



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