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China pledges to work for freedom of hijacked fishermen
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China's government on Friday pledged to make every effort to ensure the safe release of the crew of a Chinese fishing boat seized by Somali pirates off east Africa.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying it was still assessing the situation and trying to obtain more information on the vessel, which was overrun late on Thursday.

The ministry would work with organizations abroad to ensure the safe release of the crew, according to the statement.

The vessel, owned by Tianjin Ocean Fishing Company, was hijacked by pirates armed with grenade launchers and automatic weapons off the coast of Kenya and was being held off the southern Somali port city of Kismanyu, according to reports on Friday.

The 24 crew comprised 16 Chinese, one Japanese, three Filipinos and four Vietnamese, according to China's Ministry of Transport.

A Somali pirate leader reportedly said all the crew members were "fine".

(Xinhua News Agency November 15, 2008)

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