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Page last updated at 04:36 GMT, Wednesday, 20 August 2008 05:36 UK

Pirates 'seize ship' off Somalia

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Pirates have hijacked a tanker with more than 20 crew on board in the Gulf of Aden near Somalia, a global maritime watchdog has said.

A distress signal was received and the ship is now thought to be en route to coastal waters near Somalia.

The Malaysian-owned tanker is carrying crude palm oil and is thought to have a mostly Malaysian and Filipino crew.

Pirate attacks on vessels and yachts sailing the major shipping route close to Somalia have surged recently.

No direct contact has been made with the captain of the ship, said the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre.

But the Malaysian International Shipping Corporation, which owns the vessel, is said to be expecting a ransom demand once it is anchored in coastal waters.

Tuesday night's hijacking was the fourth in this area in the past few weeks, the International Maritime Bureau said.

Somalia has not had a functioning national government since 1991 and has suffered continuing civil strife.

In June, the UN Security Council voted to allow countries to send warships into Somalia's waters to tackle piracy.


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