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Chinese boat hijacked by Somali pirates
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A group of unidentified persons armed with grenade launchers and automatic weapons attacked a Chinese fishing boat off the coast of Kenya Thursday night, a regional maritime official said on Friday.

Andrew Mwangura, coordinator of the East African Seafarers' Association (SAP) said the pirates hijacked the Chinese fishing boat with 24 crew members and demanded it sail toward the coastal area off Somalia.

"The Chinese Tanyo 8 was attacked on Thursday night on the Kenyan waters probably near Lamu but we have not established the motive of the attack since it's very rare for Somali pirates to launch attacks on Kenyan waters," Mwangura told Xinhua by telephone.

"The fishing boat had 24 crew who we believe are all Chinese. The pirates have taken the vessel to Somalia," he said.

However, according to a source with the Kenyan Ministry of Transport, the 24 crew aboard the abducted ship of Tianjin Ocean Fishing Company included 16 Chinese with one from Taiwan, one Japanese, three Filipinos and four Vietnameses.

Mwangura said the attack came hours after a Russian-operated cargo ship off the coast of Somalia escaped pirates who had attacked it with grenade launchers and machine guns.

He said the pirates raced toward the ship, the Captain Maslov, in a high-speed boat late Thursday and launched attacks as it headed from Colombo, Sri Lanka, to Mombasa, Kenya.

But the pirate leader, who did not identify himself, told local Shabelle radio, that his group abducted the Chinese ship 30 miles off the coast of southern Somali port city of Kismanyu, 500 km south of the Somali capital Mogadishu, late Thursday afternoon.

According to him, the 24 crew members on board are "fine".

The leader of the pirates holding the ship claimed that the vessel was fishing off the Somali territorial waters, adding that the ship and crew “will be put before the law and punished accordingly”.

Two alleged pirates were killed during shootings between those aboard the small boat and Cumberland crew members, the statement said.

A third person, a Yemeni national, died later from injuries, despite care from the Cumberland's doctor.

The global maritime body has recorded nearly 90 incidents of piracy or attempted piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the Somali coast between January and October this year.

Rampant insecurity inside Somalia remains a major obstacle to the delivery of humanitarian supplies.

(Xinhua News Agency November 14, 2008)

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