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Somali pirates hijack two Yemeni ships

world Updated: Dec 11, 2008 08:52 IST
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Somali pirates hijacked two Yemeni fishing ships and took 22 fishermen hostage in the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday, Yemen's interior ministry said.

The pirates attacked the ships as they sailed off the Mait area near the southern port city of Aden, the ministry said in a statement posted on its website.

Before the pirates took control of the ships, seven fishermen escaped on a small boat to report the attacks to the Yemeni Coast Guard Authority in Aden, the statement said.

Twenty-two other fishermen, all Yemenis, were held hostage on the hijacked ships, it said.

The reported hijacking took place late on Wednesday, hours after a German cruise ship evacuated 370 passengers and crew members in a Yemeni port before it headed to the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden on its way to Oman.

The evacuation was a precautionary move out of fear of an attack by pirates. The passengers disembarked from the MS Columbus at the Red Sea port of Houdieda to bypass the Gulf of Aden by air to Dubai, port sources said.

Last week, Somali pirates freed a Yemeni cargo ship two weeks after they hijacked it in the Arabian Sea and demanded $2 million in ransom. Yemeni officials said it was released without ransom after negotiations between the pirates and Somali tribal leaders.

On Tuesday, the European Union deployed a naval task force off the coast of Somalia to protect vessels from threats by pirates.

A German warship warded off a suspected piracy attack on another German cruise ship, MS Astor, in the Gulf of Aden last week.

More than 60 incidents of piracy have been recorded in waters off the Somali coast and the Gulf of Aden in the first nine months of this year, according to the International Maritime Bureau.