Hijacked Chinese ship crewmembers fine: Pirate leader (Lead)

November 14th, 2008 - 10:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Mogadishu, Nov 14 (Xinhua) All the 24 crewmembers on board the Chinese fishing ship, which has been hijacked by pirates off southern Somalia, are “fine”, a pirate leader told a radio station in the Somali capital Mogadishu Friday.The pirate leader, who did not identify himself, told Shabelle radio that his group abducted the Chinese ship some 48 km off the coast of southern Somali port city of Kismanyu, 500 km south of Mogadishu, late Thursday afternoon.

He claimed that they seized the vessel because it was fishing in Somali territorial waters and said the crew would be “put before the law and punished accordingly”.

But a source with the China’s transport ministry said the ship named Tianyu 8 was fishing off the Kenyan coast when it was abducted by unidentified gunmen.

The source told Xinhua the abductors forced the vessel boat sail towards the coastal area off southern Somalia.

The ship is owned by the Tianjin Ocean Fishing Company and carried a crew of 15 Chinese, four Vietnamese, three Philippine, one Japanese and one Taiwanese.

Pirates, who claim that they are protecting Somali national resources from illegal fishing and waste dumping, often contact local media to say “that they have captured” ships fishing off the coast of Somalia and to state their demands for ransom.

The pirates holding the Chinese ship said that they would speak about their demands “at a later time”.

Somalia has one of the most dangerous coast in the world where numerous international maritime forces are deployed to fight piracy in the Gulf of Aden in the Arabian Sea between Yemen and Somalia.

At least 30 ships have been hijacked this year in the region which is one of the world’s main shipping routes.

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