Somali pirates have hijacked a South Korean-operated fishing boat with 43 sailors, Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday.
Two South Korean, two Chinese and 39 Kenyans were aboard the 241-ton Kenya-registered trawler when it was attacked Oct. 9 in the waters off Kenya’s Lamu Island, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
It wasn’t immediately known if negotiations with the pirates had begun or if they were demanding a ransom.
South Korean officials declined to provide details about the kidnapping, saying that might undermine chances for the fishermen’s safe release.
Seoul’s Yonhap news agency, however, reported that the ship had been fishing for crab in the area for about one month before being seized and taken to a pirate stronghold in northern Somalia. The report cited the Foreign Ministry and an unidentified South Korean resident living in Kenya.
It identified the ship as the Keummi 305 and the two abducted South Koreans as the 54-year-old captain and a 67-year-old engineer, both surnamed Kim.
Yonhap said the area has been considered relatively safe because it is about 250 miles (400 kilometers) away from the nearest pirate base and Kenya’s navy regularly patrols the site. It said the pirates were believed to have raided the ship and taken control of it at night.
The pirates haven’t contacted the ship’s agent in the southeastern South Korean port city of Busan for any possible negotiation, Yonhap said. The fisheries company that owns the ship shut down its Busan head office due to financial troubles in 2007 and has been operating only with the Keummi 305, it said.
Noel Choong of the International Maritime Bureau’s anti-piracy office in Malaysia could not immediately confirm the attack.
Kidnapping for ransom is common in Somalia. Hostages are rarely hurt and usually freed after a ransom is paid. Somalia, which has had no functioning government since 1991, is the world’s top piracy hot spot, with armed gangs seizing cargo and holding crew for ransom.
In April, a South Korean-operated oil tanker was also hijacked by Somali pirates with its 24-member crew. They still haven’t been released.
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