African pirates kidnap crew of 9 sailors onboard Norwegian cargo ship
African pirates have kidnapped nine sailors after hijacking a Norwegian cargo ship in the Gulf of Guinea, off the West African coast.
The Norwegian cargo ship, named Bonita, was hijacked by pirates about 14.5 kilometers from the port city of Cotonou on Saturday. Eight crew members and the captain, all of whom are Filipino nationals, were abducted, Norwegian broadcaster NRK reports.
According to the ship’s owner, J.J. Ugland, the vessel was carrying gypsum – a mineral used as a fertilizer.
“The Ugland Emergency Response Team is handling this situation as per contingency plans, and they are in contact with relevant authorities. The families of the crew members have been contacted and will be kept informed by Ugland”
“For the sake of crew members, Ugland does not want to comment any more on the situation,” the company said in a statement.
As of this report, little is known about the identity of the pirates, although the hijacking of the vessel is believed to have been financially motivated.
According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), the Gulf of Guinea, which stretches from Cameroon to Liberia, has long been regarded as one of the world’s most dangerous maritime regions, and as a haven for pirates looking to make quick cash.
So far this year, 62 people have been kidnapped at sea in the region, BBC reports.
Senior Researcher at the Norwegian Foreign Policy Institute, Morten Bøås, has surmised that the motive for the kidnapping was most likely economic and not political, simply because Filipino citizens are generally not targeted by criminal groups in Africa.
Bøås also suggested that the pirates, after finding nothing of value on the vessel, likely kidnapped the crew to extract ransom money from the ship’s owners.
According to Bøås, the nine hostages have been taken ashore and most likely moved to a neighboring country like Nigeria, where the process of freeing the hostages would take place.
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