Somali pirates operating closer to India than Africa have hijacked a Turkish-owned cargo ship in what may be their longest-range success to date.
The attack on the MV Frigia took place more than 1,000 nautical miles north-east of the Somali coastline, far beyond the range of international anti-piracy patrols. The ship, with its crew of 19 Turkish and two Ukrainian sailors, was travelling east from Port Said in Egypt to Thailand when the pirates struck.
The EU Naval Force Somalia (Navfor) said the 35,000-tonne ship, which is loaded with fertiliser, was heading towards the Somali coast. The Turkey-based Karya shipping company, which owns the vessel, said the captain had complied with all the recommended safety guidelines, Guardian.co.uk reports.
According to phillyBurbs.com, pirates in the past have hijacked ships carrying weapons and fuel, but they have never turned over the potentially dangerous cargo to militants.
Ayhan Ugurlubay, a spokesman for the Turkey-based Karya shipping company, said officials received a distress signal from the Frigia early Tuesday but have had no contact with the ship since then.
The ship was carrying fertilizer from Israel and was heading for Thailand, he said. The ship had 19 Turks and two Ukrainians on board.
"We carried out all the required procedures. The ship sailed through the dangerous zone in a convoy, escorted by (Turkish navy frigates) the Gediz and Gelibolu," he told Turkey's state-run Anatolia news agency.
"The incident occurred one and a half days after it left the naval convoy ... It is the first time that a ship has been kidnapped so far away," he said, The Associated Press reports.