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Malaysian navy ships arrive off Somalia
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September 8, 2008

Malaysian navy ships arrive off Somalia

Three Malaysian Navy vessels reached the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Somalia Sunday, raising hopes for the families of the 63 Malaysians held hostage by Somalia pirates, reported local daily the New Strait Times.

The navy ships include the new-generation offshore patrol vessel KD Pahang, frigate KD Lekiu and support ship KD Sri Inderapura, said the daily.

The Malaysian hostages, including a woman electrician, are being held at the village of Eyl in northeastern Somalia.

They are among 191 hostages held by Somalian pirates since July 20.

The pirates had hijacked at least nine ships in recent weeks.

The Malaysian ships were well-equipped with armaments and personnel to receive the hostages when they were freed, the paper quoted Malaysia’s chief Admiral Datuk Abdul Aziz Jaafar as saying.

"This includes providing them first aid, water and food.

Our mission is also to escort the MISC Bhd vessels home once the episode is over," he said, adding that they were ready for any eventuality.

"The hijackers have told MISC that they do not want any government intervention.

So, we have to take into consideration the safety of the crew.

Somali pirates seized palm oil tanker Bunga Melati Dua in the gulf between Somalia and Yemen on August 19. A Filipino sailor was killed.

Ten days later, another Malaysian ship was hijacked in the same area.

The pirates have reportedly demanded a 10 million ringgit in ransom for the two ships and their crew.

Aziz said hijacking was a major threat unlike before when only robberies occurred.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) identified four main piracy gangs operating in the trade route, which links the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea through the Suez Canal,
where commodities like oil, grain, iron ore and timber are shipped.

The gangs, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and high-powered boats, are from the Somali Marines, the National Volunteer Coast Guard, the Marka Group and the Puntland Group.

The IMB reported 15 piracy attacks on merchant and private vessels in the Gulf of Aden between February 1 and September 1.

The vessels were from Russia, France, Spain, Holland, Germany, Japan, Nigeria, Thailand, Iran and Malaysia.

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