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Somalia pirates hijack Ukrainian ship with 21 crew
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Armed Somali pirates have hijacked a Ukrainian ship with 21 crew members off the coast of Somalia in the latest attacks along the world's most dangerous waters, a regional maritime official said on Friday.

Andrew Mwangura, the coordinator of the East Africa Seafarers Assistance Program (SAP), said the Belize-flagged Faina vessel was carrying an authorized Ukrainian government arms shipment to Kenya including 38 type T-72 tanks, an extra number of armoured personnel carriers, and munitions for southern Sudan.

"The vessel was hijacked on Thursday by gunmen off the Somali coast while underway to Mombasa port. The ship was carrying 38 tanks for South Sudan with 21 crew members," Mwangura told Xinhua by telephone.

He said three motor boats loaded with armed men intercepted the Ukrainian bulk carrier Faini in international waters off Kenya's Indian Ocean coast.

According to the regional maritime official, the vessel with 21crew members aboard 17 Ukrainians, three Russians, and one Latvian had been captured by the buccaneers.

Using increasingly sophisticated equipment, pirates have stepped up attacks on merchant vessels in the Gulf, increasing insurance costs for ship owners and raising the possibility of military intervention.

A spate of hijackings by pirates off the coast of Somalia has triggered the deployment of a multi-coalition naval force to patrol the world's most dangerous waters.

The US Navy said Western coalition warships and aircraft said it will conduct patrols to boost security in the Gulf of Aden.

The Horn of Africa nation's coastline is considered one of the world's most dangerous stretches of water because of piracy.

Somalia is at the entrance to the Gulf of Aden, which leads to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, one of the world's most important shipping channels.

The country has been plagued by factional fighting between warlords and hasn't had a functioning central administration since the 1991 ouster of former dictator Mohammed Siad Barre.

(Xinhua News Agency September 26, 2008)

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