Pirates kidnap 24 in gunfight off Togo coast
Pirates attacked an oil tanker today off the coast of Togo, taking control of its bridge and kidnapping 24 sailors before escaping amid an exchange of gunfire with a naval patrol boat, an anti-piracy organization said.
It wasn't immediately clear if anyone was injured in the attack on the Greek-owned oil tanker, which had been anchored about 17 nautical miles (19 miles) away from Lome, Togo's capital. The pirates took control of the vessel quickly, though an alarm from the ship alerted the Togolese navy, said Noel Choong, an official with the International Maritime Bureau.
The navy boat trailed the tanker and sailors exchanged gunfire with the pirates before the tanker escaped, Choong said.
A naval spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment today.
Tuesday's attack is just the latest to target West Africa's Gulf of Guinea, which follows the continent's southward curve from Liberia to Gabon. Over the last year, piracy there has escalated from low-level armed robberies to hijackings and cargo thefts. Last year, London-based Lloyd's Market Association — an umbrella group of insurers — listed Nigeria, neighboring Benin and nearby waters in the same risk category as Somalia, where two decades of war and anarchy have allowed piracy to flourish.
Pirates in West Africa have been more willing to use violence in their robberies, as they target the cargo, not the crew for ransom as is the case off Somalia. Analysts say many of the pirates come from Nigeria, where corrupt law enforcement allows criminality to thrive.
The attack on the Greek oil tanker comes about a week after a similar attack on another tanker in the region, Choong said. In that attack the pirates released the crew after stealing the oil onboard, he said.
"Judging the past attacks, they'll take the vessel for several days, ransack it, take the cargo and leave the sailors," Choong said.
Analysts believe the recent hijackings of tanker ships likely is the work of a single, sophisticated criminal gang with knowledge of the oil industry and oil tankers. Those involved in the hijackings may have gotten that experience in Nigeria's southern Niger Delta, where thieves tapping pipelines running through swamps steal hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day.
Gay couple beaten in park urge MPs to moderate language on gay marriage
Strewth mate. Aussies wave goodbye to Britain as it becomes too pricey to stay
World news in pictures
X marks the spot: The find that could rewrite Australian history
At least 91 feared dead including 20 children as massive tornado rips through Oklahoma
- 1 Tottenham to smash pay scale with £150,000-a-week contract in attempt to tie Gareth Bale to club
- 2 Austerity has hardened the nation's heart
- 3 Gay couple beaten in park urge MPs to moderate language on gay marriage
- 4 Be more professional! GCHQ staff rapped as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange reveals messages that he says point to 'fit up'
- 5 Top A&E doctors warn: 'We cannot guarantee safe care for patients anymore'
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.
Negotiable: Progressive Recruitment: Quality Inspector - West Midlands - 3 Mon...
£21000 - £36000 per annum: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: Looking...
£120 per day: Randstad Education Luton: KS1 Teacher required to cover PPA in a...
MPS + OLA: Randstad Education London: Randstad Education are working with a Cl...