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S Korean warship diverted after pirates hijack tanker

world Updated: Apr 05, 2010 12:43 IST

AFP
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A South Korean warship is rushing to the area where Somali pirates hijacked a South Korean oil tanker with 24 crew members aboard, the military said on Monday.

The 300,000-tonn Samho Dream was seized on Sunday on its way from Iraq to the US state of Louisiana with a crew of five South Koreans and 19 Filipinos.

A South Korean destroyer, which was in the Gulf of Aden on anti-piracy operations, has been ordered to move to waters off Somalia, a Joint Chief of Staff spokesman told AFP.

"The destroyer is sailing in a hurry to catch up with the hijacked ship", he said.

But the spokesman declined to say whether the 4,500-tonn destroyer with about 300 soldiers on board has been ordered to intercept the hijacked ship.

Somali pirates have given no word yet but the South Korean government will not engage in any negotiations with them, the foreign ministry said.

Instead the ship's owner, Samho Shipping, based in the southern port city of Busan, will be in charge of any negotiations, it said.

The company said the tanker's captain had remained out of contact.

Somali pirates, targeting one of the world's busiest maritime trade routes, raked in an estimated 60 million dollars in ransoms last year.

A South Korean tuna ship with 25 crew was hijacked by Somali pirates in April 2006. The ship and its crew were released after four months when a ransom was paid.

In 2007 Somali pirates seized two South Korean vessels and 24 crew. The crew were released after six months in captivity.

Pirates also hijacked a South Korean cargo ship with 22 sailors in September 2008. The crew were released after the ship's owner paid a ransom.