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Two sailors kidnapped in Malacca Strait: source

Two sailors aboard a Singapore managed tug and barge have been kidnapped by pirates in the Malacca Strait.

world Updated: Feb 20, 2009 15:51 IST

Two sailors aboard a Singapore managed tug and barge have been kidnapped by pirates in the Malacca Strait, sources said on Friday.

The tug and barge were attacked on the afternoon of February 19, a maritime source familiar with the incident told AFP.

"About 12 pirates armed with guns attacked the tug and barge and kidnapped two crew members as the vessel was en route to Singapore," he said, adding that the rest of the crew and the boat were not seized.

The source, who declined to be named, said they did not know the nationality of the sailors nor whether negotiations to secure their release had begun.

They said the attack occurred in the north of the Malacca Strait, a strategic waterway shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur, confirmed the incident had taken place but declined to elaborate due to concerns over the safety of the kidnapped crew.

"The IMB is concerned about this recent kidnapping. We hope this is not a start of more attacks to come. We hope regional authorities will beef up patrols," he said.

"We urge seafarers to be alert when plying the Malacca Strait."

Until 2005 kidnappings of seafarers and vessels in the waterway was rampant, making it the world's top piracy hotspot.

Large scale Indonesian navy patrols successfully eliminated the bandits but there are concerns the effects of the global financial crisis could lead to a resurgence in piracy.

More than 30 per cent of world trade and half the world's oil shipments pass through the Malacca Strait.