Somali pirates hijacked a chemical tanker today with two British security guards and dozens of Indian crew members on board, two diplomatic sources said.
There were 25 Indians, two Bangladeshis and two British security guards on board, the sources said, and the ship was sailing under a Liberian flag.
Pirates have become increasingly brazen off the coast of Somalia, an impoverished eastern African nation that has been caught up in an Islamic insurgency and has had no functioning government since 1991.
This year there have been 96 pirate attacks and 39 ships hijacked in Somali waters, including this month's seizure of a Saudi supertanker loaded with £68m worth of crude oil.
Pirates demanding multimillion-pound ransoms are currently holding 15 ships, with nearly 300 crew.
Warships from Denmark, India, Malaysia, Russia, the US and Nato patrol the vast international maritime corridor off Somalia, escorting some merchant ships and responding to distress calls.