Somali pirates hijack S Korean boat


Somali pirates have hijacked a South Korean-operated fishing boat carrying 43 crew, Seoul said today.

Two South Korean, two Chinese and 39 Kenyans were aboard the Kenya-registered trawler when it was attacked on October 9th in the waters off Kenya’s Lamu Island, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

It is not known if negotiations with the pirates have begun or if they are demanding a ransom.

South Korean officials declined to provide details about the kidnapping, saying that might undermine chances for the fishermen’s safe release.

Seoul’s Yonhap news agency reported the ship had been fishing for crab in the area for about one month before being seized and taken to a pirate stronghold in northern Somalia.

The ship with GPS equipment left the stronghold yesterday and was sailing south, Yonhap reported today, citing the vessel’s agent in Kenya. Its destination and reason for moving weren’t known.

It identified the ship as the Keummi 305 and the two abducted South Koreans as the 54-year-old captain and a 67-year-old engineer.

Yonhap said the area has been considered relatively safe because it is about 400km away from the nearest pirate base and Kenya’s navy regularly patrols the site. It said the pirates were believed to have raided the ship and taken control of it at night.

It said the pirates have not contacted the ship’s agent for any possible negotiation.

Kidnapping for ransom is common in Somalia. Hostages are rarely hurt and usually freed after a ransom is paid. Somalia, which has had no functioning government since 1991, is the world’s top piracy hot spot, with armed gangs seizing cargo and holding crew for ransom.

In April, a South Korean-operated oil tanker was also hijacked by Somali pirates with its 24-member crew. They have not yet been released.