Pirates attacked an oil tanker yesterday off the coast of Togo, taking control of its bridge and kidnapping 24 sailors before escaping amid an exchange of gunfire with a naval patrol boat, an anti-piracy organisation said.
The Associated Press (AP) reported that it wasn’t immediately clear if anyone was injured in the attack on the Greek-owned oil tanker, which had been anchored about 17 nautical miles (19 miles) away from Lome, Togo’s capital.
An official with the International Maritime Bureau, Noel Choong, the pirates took control of the vessel quickly, though an alarm from the ship alerted the Togolese navy. Choong said the navy boat trailed the tanker and sailors exchanged gunfire with the pirates before the tanker escaped.
A naval spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday. The attack is just the latest to target West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, which follows the continent’s southward curve from Liberia to Gabon. Over the last year, piracy there has escalated from low-level armed robberies to hijackings and cargo thefts.
Last year, a London-based Lloyd’s Market Association-an umbrella group of insurers-listed Nigeria, neighbouring Benin and nearby waters in the same risk category as Somalia, where two decades of war and anarchy have allowed piracy to flourish.
The attack on the Greek oil tanker comes about a week after a similar attack on another tanker in the region, Choong said. “In that attack, the pirates released the crew after stealing the oil onboard. Judging the past attacks, they will take the vessel for several days, ransack it, take the cargo and leave the sailors,” Choong said.