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Somali pirates seize German ship-maritime group

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Hijacking happened 400 nautical miles off Kismayu

* Name of vessel, nationalities of crew unclear

NAIROBI, April 5 (Reuters) – Somali pirates have seized a 20,000 tonne German container vessel in their latest attack on commercial shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean, a regional maritime group said on Sunday.

Heavily armed gangs from the lawless Horn of Africa nation hijacked dozens of vessels there and in the busy Gulf of Aden last year, earning themselves million of dollars in ransoms.

Foreign navies rushed warships to the area in response, causing the number of successful attacks to fall in recent months. But there are still near daily attempts to seize ships.

Andrew Mwangura of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme said the latest hijacking took place on Saturday about 400 nautical miles off the southern Somali port of Kismayu, between the Seychelles and Kenya.

“We believe the German ship has 24 crew on board. We’re trying to establish their identities and the name of the vessel,” Mwangura told Reuters by telephone.

Somali pirates seized two European-owned tankers late last month. And last week the Seychelles military said it had deployed security forces on the outer islands of its archipelago after a second vessel flying the Indian Ocean nation’s flag was seized by gunmen from Somalia.

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