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Pirates off Somalia seize chemical tanker

NAIROBI, Kenya — Somalian pirates seized control of a chemical tanker in the Gulf of Aden on Friday.

France and Germany sent a NATO helicopter gunship after receiving a distress call just after dawn, but in the 15 minutes it took to get to the site, the pirates had already boarded and taken the crew of 25 Indians and two Bangladeshis hostage, French military spokesman Cmdr. Christophe Prazuck said.

The NATO ship picked up three British security guards who jumped into the sea.

France and Germany have ships in the area as part of an international antipiracy coalition.

They have started patrolling the vast maritime corridor along with warships from Denmark, India, Malaysia, Russia and the United States.

They escort some merchant ships and respond to distress calls in the fight against increasingly brazen pirate attacks off Somalia's coast, a major international shipping lane through which about 20 tankers sail daily. Friday's was the 97th ship hijacking this year.

One of the hijacked ships, the Malta-flagged cargo ship Centauri, was released Thursday with all 25 Filipino crew unharmed after more than two months in the hands of pirates, Greece announced.

The ship hijacked Friday, the Liberian-flagged MV Biscaglia, is operated out of Singapore, said Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Malaysia.

Ethiopia to pull

out of Somalia

Ethiopia announced Friday that it is pulling its forces from Somalia by year's end, leaving the ravaged capital vulnerable to the Islamic militants who have seized nearly all of the country. The decision ends the unpopular two-year presence of the key U.S. ally much as it began — with the militants in near-total control of a failed state with a worsening humanitarian crisis.

Pirates off Somalia seize chemical tanker 11/28/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 10:35am]

    

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