SKorea: Somali pirates abduct 43 sailors off Kenya

AP News
Posted: Oct 17, 2010 7:03 AM
SKorea: Somali pirates abduct 43 sailors off Kenya

Somali pirates have hijacked a South Korean-operated fishing boat with 43 sailors, Seoul's Foreign Ministry said Sunday.

Two South Korean, two Chinese and 39 Kenyans were aboard the 241-ton Kenya-registered trawler when it was attacked Oct. 9 in the waters off Kenya's Lamu Island, South Korea's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

It wasn't immediately known if negotiations with the pirates had begun or if they were demanding a ransom.

South Korean officials declined to provide details about the kidnapping, saying that might undermine chances for the fishermen's safe release.

Seoul's Yonhap news agency reported the ship had been fishing for crab in the area for about one month before being seized and taken to a pirate stronghold in northern Somalia. The ship with GPS equipment left the stronghold on Saturday and was sailing south, Yonhap reported later Sunday citing the vessel's agent in Kenya. Its destination and reason for moving weren't known.

It identified the ship as the Keummi 305 and the two abducted South Koreans as the 54-year-old captain and a 67-year-old engineer, both surnamed Kim.

Yonhap said the area has been considered relatively safe because it is about 250 miles (400 kilometers) away from the nearest pirate base and Kenya's navy regularly patrols the site. It said the pirates were believed to have raided the ship and taken control of it at night.

Kim, the captain, owns the ship but he was forced to shut down his head office in the southern South Korean port city of Busan in 2007 due to financial troubles, Yonhap said. The report said the pirates haven't contacted the ship's agent for any possible negotiation.

Noel Choong of the International Maritime Bureau's anti-piracy office in Malaysia could not immediately confirm the attack.

Kidnapping for ransom is common in Somalia. Hostages are rarely hurt and usually freed after a ransom is paid. Somalia, which has had no functioning government since 1991, is the world's top piracy hot spot, with armed gangs seizing cargo and holding crew for ransom.

In April, a South Korean-operated oil tanker was also hijacked by Somali pirates with its 24-member crew. They still haven't been released.

(This version CORRECTS ship's agent is in Kenya, not SKorean port city of Busan.)