Ten Turkish sailors have been taken hostage by gunmen off the coast of Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer, in what is suspected to be a kidnapping for ransom.
Shipping company Kadioglu Denizcilik said in a statement the vessel was attacked by “pirates” on its way from Cameroon to the Ivory Coast.
The Turkish-flagged Paksoy-1 cargo ship was boarded in the Gulf of Guinea without any freight on board, Kadioglu said on Tuesday. Turkey’s foreign ministry said the sailors were seized on Saturday evening.
The ship was carrying 18 crew members at the time – all Turkish citizens. The eight remaining crew were rescued and taken to Ghana, the ministry said.
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Private NTV television said the pirates approached the ship on speed boats and seized the sailors. They have not been heard from since.
“According to initial information, there were no injuries or casualties. Efforts for all our personnel to be safely released continue,” the company said.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) recently described the Gulf of Guinea as the most dangerous area in the world for shipping; 73 percent of all sea kidnappings and 92 percent of hostage-takings occur there, with pirates normally taking sailors for ransom.
Armed pirates kidnapped 27 crew members in the first half of 2019 and of nine vessels fired upon worldwide, eight were off the coast of Nigeria.
However, Nigeria reported 14 pirate attacks in the first quarter of 2019 compared with 22 in the same period in 2018.
An IMB report in April attributed the drop to the Nigerian navy’s increased efforts to “actively respond to reported incidents by dispatching patrol boats”.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, the spokesman for Turkey’s ruling AK Party, Omer Celik, said foreign ministry and intelligence services were closely following the situation and called for the sailors’ safe release.