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Suspected pirates attack Kenyan ship off coast of Somalia

15 February 2014, 07:57

Mombasa - A Kenyan-based merchant vessel was attacked by suspected Somali pirates off the coast of Somalia on Friday in the first such attack since this year.

Kenya's maritime official said the ill-fated vessel, dubbed MV Andrea, was attacked by assailants aboard a white hulled skiff while underway to the port of Mogadishu, Somalia.

"The crew members aboard the vessel are reported to be safe and sound since no one was injured during the gun fight," Kenya Seafarers Union (KSU) Secretary General Andrew Mwangura told Xinhua in Mombasa.

Mwangura said the ship with 17 crew members, majority being Kenyans, was attacked by heavily armed gunmen. He said the security men aboard the merchant ship were able to dispel the attack.

Mwangura said the vessel was exporting cargo to Mogadishu before going to Comoros Islands. He said the security team aboard the merchant ship returned gunfire, forcing the gunmen to abort the attack and sail away.

Mwangura told Xinhua the attackers launched two unsuccessful attempts to hijack the ship. All crew members aboard the vessel are reported to be safe and sound.

The Sierra Leone flagged ship is operated and managed by the Mombasa-based Alpha Logistics Company.

It has been operating along Tanzania, Kenya, Madagascar, Comoros and Mozambique waters for many years. Incidents of piracy along the Somali waters have gone down since 2010 after the incursion of Kenya troops into Somalia.

Mwangura said there have been only five strings of unsuccessful pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean. Currently, Somali pirates are holding captive about 87 hostages, including four Kenyans over land and about 17 aboard a pirate mother ship.

The drop in piracy incidents is a relief to shipping companies using the Indian Ocean that have been the target of pirates.

This was the latest attack this year and comes after global anti-piracy watchdog reported that piracy off the coast of Somalia had dropped significantly for the past six years due to preventive measures deployed by the foreign warships to thwart such attacks.

The report by International Chamber Commerce (ICC) International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reveals that there were only 15 incidents reported off Somalia in 2013, down from 75 in 2012, and 237 in 2011, contributing to the worldwide fall in piracy.

The Somali pirates have been deterred by a combination of factors, including the key role of international navies, the hardening of vessels, the use of private armed security teams, and the stabilizing influence of Somalia's central government.

- Xinhua

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