Pirates Hijack Tanker And Crew Off West Africa Coast

Pirates hijacked an oil tanker off the coast of Gabon, West African country, on Monday. The tanker, carrying a crew of 24 Indians, is believed to be in Nigerian waters. Nigerian officials have not yet commented.

The attack was made public knowledge by Genel Denizcilik Nakliyati, the Turkish company which owns the tanker, reports Hindu Businessline. They said they will be contacting the families of the two dozen Indian crew members believed to be held captive by the pirates.

Authorities at the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) have seen a drop in pirate attacks by Somali pirates this year, compared to last.

Despite this, this recent attack marks the southern most West African pirate activity yet seen by 200 miles.

Security firm AKE says that the attack "marks a significant expansion of the geographical range of Gulf of Guinea piracy." They also stated that it "demonstrates the regional nature of the illegal fuel trade" and the value a hijacked oil tanker has.

Yahoo! News reports that a Gabonese naval official, speaking anonymously, described the attack to press. The official says that the pirates hijacked the tanker after assaulting it with at least a dozen AK-47 wielding gunmen. It has since been spotted moving through Nigerian waters, he added.

One group, the IMB, issued a warning earlier this week, regarding the Gulf of Guinea. They say that the area has been seeing a rise of kidnappings and other acts of piracy recently. The IMB has said this conflicts with reports of declining piracy rates because of a growing trend of incidents going unreported.

Officials say the area is growing in popularity among pirates for good reason. Ships passing near the Horn of Africa can move legally through the area quickly and with armed personnel, and as seen a decline in piracy.

The Gulf of Gabon, however, has many nations which require ships to dock in coastal towns with few armed forces. Such policies, authorities say, make ships in the area ripe for attacks, like the Cotton which pirates hijacked successfully earlier in the week.

[Image via akarakoc via photopin cc]