Thursday, March 17, 2005

Pirates Abduct 3 Sailors From Tugboat In Malacca Strait

Japan has called on the governments of three Southeast Asian nations for help after armed pirates kidnapped three Sailors from a Japanese tugboat they attacked in the Malacca Strait. More than 10 armed Pirates on a Small Boat fired on the Japanese-registered 323-tonne tugboat Idaten in Malaysian waters around 1030 GMT on Monday, kidnapping two Japanese and one Filipino crew member. The Idaten, owned by Japanese shipping firm Kondo Kaiji, was carrying 14 crew members. The officials said the other 11 were unharmed. A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Tuesday that Japan had called on the governments of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore for cooperation. "Through the embassies in each nation, we have asked for their help in finding information, ensuring the safety of the three kidnapped men, and investigation," she said. Singapore said it would do all it could. "Our port authority has immediately alerted our Coast Guard and all Ships within Singapore waters to the incident," its Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. "Singapore will render whatever assistance we can." The Tugboat arrived at the Malaysian island of Penang on Tuesday evening. Japanese officials said it was unclear where the Pirates went after the attack, although Malaysian police and the Indonesian navy were searching for them. "There is no real progress," chief cabinet secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told a news conference, adding that no contact had been made with the kidnappers. Malaysia's Marine Police Force Commander Abdul Rahman Ahmad told Kyodo News on tuesday that five ships had been deployed in the search, but he believed the pirates had already fled across the border into Indonesia. ''They have definitely crossed the border, somewhere in Sumatra's many northern islands around Aceh. We have contacted our Indonesian partners about this,'' he said. The Malacca Straits, one of the world's busiest sea lanes, was rated second worst in terms of piracy by the International Maritime Bureau, an ocean crime watchdog, last month. The narrow strait betwewen Malaysia and Indonesia, with Singapore at its southern entrance, carries more than a quarter of the world's trade and almost all of Japan and China's crucial oil imports.
The Japanese-registered tugboat Idaten. Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan scrambled to rescue four ship's officers and a sailor kidnapped by pirates in audacious armed raids on a tanker and a tugboat in the Malacca Strait.
Malaysian police inspect the Japanese tugboat Idaten after it reached Penang.

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