Somali pirates hijacked a chemical tanker with 25 Indian crew members on board on Friday, and three British security guards were rescued by helicopter after jumping into the sea, officials said.
A warship on patrol nearby had sent helicopters to intervene in the attack, but they arrived after pirates had taken control of the Liberian-flagged ship, diplomatic officials said on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorised to speak with media.
Still on board were 25 Indian and two Bangladeshi crew members, after the British security guards escaped by jumping into the water, the diplomats said.
It was the 97th vessel to be attacked this year off Somalia, where an Islamic insurgency and lack of effective government have helped facilitate an increase in pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden.
The ship was being operated out of Singapore, according to Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting centre in Malaysia.
The hijacking came barely two weeks after MT Stolt Valor, which was seized on September 15 along with an 18-member crew, was released by the pirates.
The fate of another seven Indians on board the Hong Kong-registered Delight, captured by the pirates last week, remained unclear. Besides having 25 Indians aboard, the Liberian-registered cargo ship MT Biscaglia had three Bangladeshis, two Britons and an Irish national among the crew, Directorate General of Shipping in Mumbai said.
The vessel, which was sailing between Indonesia and Europe, was seized in the Gulf of Aden and now headed for an unknown destination after the armed hijackers took control of it. Its last port of call was Dumai in Indonesia.
Immediately on receipt of the report of the hijacking, Indian Navy, Coast Guard and International Maritime Board piracy reporting centre have been informed for assistance, the DG Shipping said in a statement. The piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur has responded and contacted the coalition forces which have sent out two helicopters.
The ship, on way to Europe via Suez Canal, was hijacked at around 07.00 hours, the statement said, adding an Indian naval vessel in the Gulf of Aden was refuelling as scheduled at the time of hijacking of the cargo vessel.
The Indian Navy has deployed a warship to provide security to the vessels in the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden. India has also planned to send up to four naval ships there.
Greek ship released
Meanwhile, Somali pirates have released a Greek ship, which they hijacked in September in the waters off the restive Horn of Africa region. MV Centauri with a crew of 26 Filipinos, which was due to discharge 17,000 tonnes of bulk salt at the Kenya port of Mombasa, was freed yesterday. The ship is now on its way to Mombasa.
Somali pirates have caused mayhem this year in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.
The hijacked ships included a Saudi Arabian supertanker loaded with $100 million worth of oil, the biggest hijacking in history. The tanker, the Sirius Star, belongs to Saudi Arabia’s state-owned Vela International and is carrying 2 million barrels of oil.