KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - A maritime official says an Egyptian cargo ship with 25 crew has been hijacked by pirates in the Gulf of Aden near Somalia.
Noel Choong of the International Maritime Bureau says the ship was seized late Wednesday, making it the 10th vessel to be hijacked in the pirate-infested waterway since July 20.
He says the attack occurred on the same day when a French sailboat was seized in the area. The French ministry said it believed there were only two French nationals aboard the sailboat.
The Gulf of Aden, which connects the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, is one of the world's busiest waterways with some 20,000 ships passing through each year. But it has become notorious for an increasing number of attacks.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia is dispatching three navy vessels to the Gulf of Aden to protect its merchant ships following a sharp surge in pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia, an official said Friday.
The frigates, carrying an unspecified number of soldiers and several helicopters, will provide security for five ships owned by Malaysian shipping line MISC Berhad, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak was quoted as saying by The Star.
The move came after two MISC tankers were hijacked by armed pirates in the gulf last month, prompting the company earlier this week to ban its ships from the region until additional security measures were in place.
A defense ministry official — who declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media — confirmed Najib's comments.
Two of the navy ships will reach the gulf in the next few days, said the official. A third will leave Malaysia soon. The Gulf of Aden is already patrolled by an international naval force, but the Malaysian vessels will focus on escorting MISC ships.
Soldiers will not launch rescue operations for the two hijacked MISC ships because negotiations were ongoing to release the ships and crew, the official said. No further details were immediately available. MISC officials declined to comment when contacted.
The Gulf of Aden, which connects the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, is one of the world's busiest waterways with some 20,000 ships passing through each year. But it has become notorious for an increasing number of attacks by apparently Somali pirates.
Somalia's 1,880-mile coast is the longest in Africa. The impoverished country has not had a functioning government since 1991.
Pirates seized the Malaysian palm oil tanker, MT Bunga Melati 2, in the gulf between Somalia and Yemen on Aug. 19, resulting in the death of a Filipino sailor. Another MISC tanker, MT Bunga Melati 5, was hijacked 10 days later in the same waterway. It was the eighth ship hijacked in the Gulf of Aden since July 20.
Pirates have reportedly demanded a $3 million ransom for the two ships and 79 crew, including 14 Filipinos, local newspapers said.
The surge in pirate attacks has prompted the U.S. Naval Central Command to establish a security corridor in the gulf patrolled by an international coalition of warships and aircraft.