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The Nigerian Navy has rescued thirteen foreign nationals who were abducted in an attempt by some suspected sea pirates to hijack a merchant ship leaving the country for Cameroon.
The rescued foreigners, who were all crew members of the ship, were of mixed nationalities, consisting of seven Philippines, two Romanians, one Russian, one Polish, one Indian and one Croatian.
Commanding Officer of the Nigerian Navy Shop (NNS) Nwamba, Captain Mustapha Hassan, made this known while briefing newsmen in Port Harcourt, on Friday, adding that the hijack attempt was foiled by the Navy Special Forces.
Hassan, who led the rescue operation, said the 13 foreigners were rescued unharmed, even as he disclosed that the merchant ship, (MT Vectis Osprey) registered in Britai, came into Nigeria from Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, on August 10, 2016, transporting general cargo.
He said the ship, after discharging its cargo, set sail for Douala, Cameroon, on August 17 but was attacked by nine heavily-armed sea pirates who boarded the vessel with intent to taking the 13 crew members hostage.
“On August 17, 2016, MT Vectis Osprey, a British ship, was attacked by sea pirates about 20 nautical miles off the coast of Bonny Island Fairway Bouy in Rivers.
“We got a distress alert from the operations centre at the naval headquarters which dispatched NNS Nwamba with NNS Okpabana to shadow the operation. On getting the ‘may-day’ distress call, we immediately set course to intercept and rescue the merchant ship from hijack by sea pirates.
“On arrival, Special Forces attacked the nine heavily armed pirates who jumped into the sea and escaped, apparently due to superior gunfire and tactical awareness of troops.
“The operation was largely successful as all the 13 foreign crew members, including the captain, are safe and unhurt, while cargo onboard the ship is intact”, he said.
Captain Hassan, however, said the naval troops were unable to apprehend the pirates due to poor visibility, partly caused by torrential rainstorm which fell on the day of the rescue.
He added that the rescue was successful due to ongoing operation code-named “Tsare Teku II”, set up to tackle oil theft, illegal bunkering and pirate attacks on the nation’s waterways.