Sunday, March 08, 2009
Suspected Somali pirates opened fire on a merchant vessel in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Kenya during a failed hijacking attempt, a maritime official said. "One skiff with six men onboard came within 100 metres of the merchant vessel and fired what was believed to be a rocket-propelled grenade," Andrew Mwangura, of the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme, said in a statement. Mwangura did not identify the ship but said the attack took place on Friday, around 265 nautical miles (490 kilometres) east of the Kenyan port of Mombasa. "The alert merchant mariners took appropriate anti-piracy measures and escaped with no damage to the vessel, crew or cargo," he added.Mwangura said the attack was the eighth incident in which shots were fired at merchant vessels in the Indian Ocean south of the equator since October. Since the surge in hijackings by ransom-hunting Somali pirates in 2007, most attacks have been carried out in the Gulf of Aden, where thousands of ships bottle-neck into the Red Sea each year. Increased navy presence in the area however has encouraged some pirate groups to hunt ships further out at sea. Despite a slight drop in attacks in recent weeks, Somali pirates still hold 10 ships for ransom.