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Somali pirates hijack ship operated by Philippines


October 16, 2008

Somali pirates hijack ship operated by Philippines
Somali pirates hijacked a Philippine-managed bulk carrier with 21 sailors aboard on Wednesday, AFP quoted a maritime watchdog as saying Thursday.

Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur, told Agence France-Presse that the pirates boarded the vessel in the notorious Gulf of Aden.

“The ship was sailing from the Middle East to Asia,” Choong said.

The maritime bureau did not say if all the 21 crew were Filipinos.

Last week, Somali pirates seized a Greek tanker and separately attacked a World Food Program-chartered ship.

According to the maritime bureau, 73 ships have been attacked off Somalia since January, 11 of which are still being held for ransom. Pirates are holding more than 200 crew.

The Philippines said on Wednesday it supported establishing a coalition of naval forces off Somalia to prevent the hijacking of foreign vessels, many of which have Filipino crew.

Manila will continue to reject ransom demands for its citizens held by pirates, said Esteban Conejos, the Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Affairs.

“We support putting up a coalition naval force in the area,” Conejos added. “But . . . we do not support the application of military force in a situation where the hostage-taking [has been] completed,” he told reporters in Manila. Such move could endanger the lives of seamen, Conejos said.

He disclosed that diplomats were working to secure the release of 40 Filipino sailors from three hijacked ships.

The hostages were among 120 Filipino crew aboard 11 foreign-flagged ships seized by pirates off the Gulf of Aden between April and September this year, Conejos said. Eighty Filipino hostages have been freed.

The Philippines supplies a third of the world’s shipping manpower, with over 270,000 working on ships that ply major sea-lanes.

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