Somali Pirates Seize Tanker and Cargo Ship

A Greek-owned cargo ship and a British-flagged chemical tanker have been seized by Somali pirates as the marauders scored a record number of attacks and hijackings in 2009.

The Piracy Reporting Center of the International Maritime Bureau said Tuesday that pirates operating across the Gulf of Aden and along the coast of Somalia have attacked 214 vessels so far this year, resulting in 47 hijackings. Twelve of those ships, with a total of 263 crew members, are currently being held for ransom by the pirates, New York Times reports.

A British-flagged chemical tanker and its 26 crew were seized in the Gulf of Aden on Monday by the same group of pirates holding British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler hostage since late October.

"We have hijacked a ship with British flag in the Gulf of Aden late yesterday," pirate commander Mohamed Shakir told The Times by phone from the town of Garacad where he was waiting for his associates to return from the high seas.

"We have peacefully captured the ship and no shots were fired and no casualities," he said, Times Online reports.

Interfax news agency has quoted a chief officer in the East African Seafarers Assistance Program, Andrew Mwangura, as saying that Russian citizens are staying aboard the St. James Park vessel.

The British tanker was captured by Somali pirates on Thursday. It has a mixed crew, consisting of 26 sailors from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania, the Philippines, Poland, India and Turkey, Mwangura said.

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