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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gulf of Guinea Pirates: Oil Tanker Attacked Off Togo, 24 Crew Kidnapped, Shots Fired

WaPo report here:
Pirates attacked an oil tanker Tuesday off the coast of Togo, taking control of its bridge and kidnapping 24 sailors before escaping amid an exchange of gunfire with a naval patrol boat, an anti-piracy organization said.

It wasn’t immediately clear if anyone was injured in the attack on the Greek-owned oil tanker, which had been anchored about 17 nautical miles (19 miles) away from Lome, Togo’s capital. The pirates took control of the vessel quickly, though an alarm from the ship alerted the Togolese navy, said Noel Choong, an official with the International Maritime Bureau.
Other reports have the ship itself being seized by the pirates. I guess some are first reports and we know all about those, don't we?

Here's a not so much confidence building report, given that a Togolese navy boat was involved in the fray:
The West African state’s army chief of staff Atcha Titikpina told a regional conference on piracy in the capital Lome that Togolese forces were still trying to locate the vessel after learning of the attack.

Ship operator Golden Energy Management, which operates a number of ships through the Manx Ship Registry, confirmed the attack and said it appeared to bear the hallmarks of an operation to steal the 56,000 tonnes of gasoil on board rather than to target the crew.

‘It’s not piracy, it’s robbery,’ a company official told Reuters in Athens. ‘It is carrying gasoil and it’s very possible that the robbers just want the cargo.’

A Togolese security ministry official said the attackers’ vessel fled in the direction of neighbouring Benin after the incident, some 20 nautical miles off the coast of Togo, but had no details on the whereabouts of the tanker.
Or it might be that the situation is confusing -
The UK’s Independent newspaper is reporting that an anti-piracy organisation has said that pirates attacked an oil tanker today off the coast of Togo, taking control of its bridge and kidnapping 24 sailors before escaping amid an exchange of gunfire with a naval patrol boat.

It wasn’t immediately clear if anyone was injured in the attack on the Greek-owned oil tanker, which had been anchored about 17 nautical miles (19 miles) away from Lome, Togo’s capital. The pirates took control of the vessel quickly, though an alarm from the ship alerted the Togolese navy, said Noel Choong, an official with the International Maritime Bureau.

The navy boat trailed the tanker and sailors exchanged gunfire with the pirates before the tanker escaped, Choong said.

The Independent reports that pirates in west Africa have been more willing to use violence in their robberies, as they target the cargo, not the crew for ransom as is the case off Somalia. Analysts say many of the pirates come from Nigeria, where corrupt law enforcement allows criminality to thrive.

The attack on the Greek oil tanker comes about a week after a similar attack on another tanker in the region, Choong said. In that attack the pirates released the crew after stealing the oil onboard, he said.

‘Judging the past attacks, they’ll take the vessel for several days, ransack it, take the cargo and leave the sailors,’ Choong said.
Suggestions of an organized crime element are made. Hey, don't we call such an outfit that attacks ship "pirates?"

UPDATE: Okay, the ship was grabbed and the crew was taken along with it. The confusion seems to have been mostly mine.

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