Page last updated at 02:21 GMT, Sunday, 18 May 2008 03:21 UK

Aid vessel hijacked off Somalia


East African maritime officials say pirates have hijacked a Jordanian ship off the coast of Somalia.

The Victoria, sailing from India with 4,000 tonnes of sugar donated by Denmark on board, was seized early on Saturday as it neared Mogadishu.

It has a crew of 12 from Pakistan, India, Tanzania and Bangladesh.

The seas off Somalia have some of the highest rates of piracy in the world, with a dozen vessels attacked this year, and three in recent weeks.

Last month the United States and France proposed a UN resolution allowing countries to chase and arrest pirates in Somalia's territorial waters.

Contact with the Jordanian-registered Victoria was lost at 0500GMT when the boat was 55km (35 miles) off the Somali coast, Jordanian Transport Minister Alaa al-Batayneh said.

The boat is now reportedly heading north.

He said Jordan was working with the Danish embassy in Mogadishu to try to secure the release of the ship and crew.

Somali officials have blamed Western companies for paying ransoms after hijackings, saying this only worsens the problem.

In April, the 26 crew of a Spanish fishing boat were released after being seized by pirates, and a reported ransom of $1.2m (600,000) was paid.

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