<%@LANGUAGE="VBSCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> WorldTribune.com: Mobile Freighter with chemicals seized in Gulf of Aden; U.S. aids search
Freighter with chemicals seized in Gulf of Aden; U.S. aids search

Tuesday, September 2, 2008 Free Headline Alerts

ABU DHABI A freighter loaded with volatile chemicals has been seized in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Yemen.

Officials said Yemen had been alerted to the hijacking of the freighter and has launched a search. They said the vessel, Bunga Melati-5 and registered in Malaysia, was reported captured by unknown assailants on Aug. 29 in the Gulf of Aden.

"We believe it was pirates, but it could be an organized terrorist effort," an official said.

Officials said the Yemeni Coast Guard, in cooperation with the United States, has been searching for the freighter. They said the freighter relayed an alert to nearby ships of attack by unidentified gunmen.

In late August, the United States established a security corridor in the Gulf of Aden to prevent piracy. But officials said the U.S.-led multi-national force failed to spot the attackers.

About 20,000 ships per year sail through the Gulf of Aden. In 2008, pirates based in Somalia have seized 30 vessels, including those from Gulf Cooperation Council states, and held them for ransom.

Industry sources said the hijacked ship, owned by Malaysia's national carrier MISC, was carrying 30,000 tons of petrochemicals. The ship, with a crew of 41, was said to have been sailing from Singapore to Saudi Arabia.

Somali pirates have contacted MISC. The sources said the pirates demanded $4.7 million for the release of Bunga Melati-5 and its sister ship, Bunga Melati Dua.

Yemen has sought to deploy a 40-vessel coast guard financed by the United States. Sanaa has urged the Bush administration to increase the Yemeni maritime force to patrol its nearly 2,000 kilometers of coast.

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