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Hijacked supertanker moors off Somalia
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The hijacked Saudi-owned supertanker has anchored off the coast of northeastern Somalia while eight pirates escaped from prison in the semi-autonomous Somali region of Puntland, officials said Tuesday.

Saudi-owned crude oil supertanker "Sirius Star" is seen in this photograph taken in Rotterdam on October 17, 2008. Pirates who hijacked the Sirius Star off the east coast of Africa are taking the vessel towards a Somali port, the U.S. Navy said on Nov. 17, 2008. Picture taken October 17, 2008. The hijacked Saudi-owned supertanker has anchored off the coast of northeastern Somalia. [Xinhua/Reuters Photo]

The Sirius Star, capable of carrying 2 million barrels of crude oil, along with its international crew of 25, was hijacked over the weekend by Somali pirates 450 miles off the coast of the Kenyan port town of Mombasa and has since been heading towards the Somali port town of Harardhere in Puntland.

"We have reports that the tanker is now moored at Harardhere, near where the Ukrainian ship carrying the weapons is being held," Bile Mohamoud Qabobe, an adviser to the Puntland President told Xinhua by phone from Bossaso, the commercial capital of the region.

"We are concerned about the close proximity between the two ships which could cause disaster for both the local people, the crew on both ships as well as the marine environment," Qabobe added.

Meanwhile, in Bossaso, eight Somali pirates being held at the local central prison have escaped and are now being pursued by the Puntland security forces, Qabobe said.

He denied reports that the escapees included two of nine pirates handed over to Puntland authorities by the French Navy in October.

Some reports from Puntland where piracy is rampant said that the pirates, who are usually better equipped and trained than local forces because of the huge ransom payout they get from hijacked ships, bribed the prison guards for their escape.

The waters off Somalia's coast are considered to be some of the world's most dangerous. Pirates have hijacked more than 30 ships this year and attacked many more.

Most attacks have been in the Gulf of Aden between Yemen and north Somalia, a major route leading to the Suez Canal linking Europe and Asia.

Saudi-owned crude oil supertanker Sirius Star is seen during its naming ceremony in South Korea in this undated handout picture released on June 18, 2008 and obtained by Reuters on Nov. 18, 2008. . [Xinhua/Reuters Photo]

(Xinhua News Agency November 19, 2008)

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