Monday, June 04, 2007

Pirates Seize Danish Ship Off Somalia

Somali hijackers have seized a Danish cargo ship and its five Danish crew in the latest case of piracy plaguing waters off the lawless Horn of Africa nation, a Kenyan maritime official said. The Donica White was carrying building materials from Dubai to Kenya's Mombasa port when gunmen boarded it, Andrew Mwangura, director of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers Assistance Program, told reporters. “We expect a ransom to be demanded in the next three to four days, and we expect it to be high because the crew were all Danish nationals this time,” Mr. Mwangura said. Four other ships — an Indian dhow and three fishing vessels from Taiwan and Tanzania — are currently being held by Somali pirates, who have made the Indian Ocean corridor off their homeland among the most dangerous waters in the world. Experts have long speculated that the pirates are using a mysterious “mother ship” to reach their targets far out at sea, and then board them using smaller speedboats.Mr. Mwangura said the hijacking of the Donica White, in heavy seas more than 210 kilometres off the coast, appeared to have been carried out that way. “We have not seen it yet, but there has to be (a mother ship),” he said. “Small ships like those that attacked could not have made it so far from the coast in very rough seas.” Waters off the Somali coast, Africa's longest, are trade routes for key commodities like oil, grains and iron ore from the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea down to the Mozambique Channel. Thousands of merchant ships snake past the Somali coastline to the Cape of Good Hope every year. Pirate attacks in Somali waters have mushroomed since the Islamist movement that brought a semblance of law and order during its six-month rule was ousted from Mogadishu in January. Some of the pirates claim to be “coastguards” protecting their waters against illegal fishing and toxic waste dumping. But the United Nations has called for international action to combat Somalia's “plague of piracy”, saying it threatened vital aid deliveries to some one million people.

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