, KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 13 – An international maritime watchdog on Monday warned ships to steer clear of waters off Nigeria due to a trio of recent piracy attacks including a deadly assault it said was still under way.
The master and chief engineer of a cargo vessel were shot and killed by pirates off Nigeria on Monday in the latest attack, one of three to have occurred in the area since Thursday, the International Maritime Bureau said.
“Two crew members have been shot dead. We believe they are Nigerian pirates,” said Noel Choong, head of the IMB’s Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting centre.
He said the centre had alerted Nigerian authorities, who had launched an operation to intercept the pirates and rescue the ship.
He could not provide any information on the origins of the ships or their crews.
“This place, 90 nautical miles south of Lagos, Nigeria, is dangerous to sailors. Vessels should stay clear off the attack vicinity since the pirates are still in the area,” he said.
The monitoring centre said the other attacks included a tanker that was hijacked south of Nigeria on Thursday. Nigerian vessels intercepted that ship and rescued all of its crew.
Another vessel was reported to have been attacked in the area on Saturday but escaped.
Choong said the same pirates may have carried out the separate attacks.
The IMB warned in September that the seas off Benin, Nigeria’s neighbour, were emerging as a new piracy “hotspot” due to the weak enforcement capabilities of governments in the region.
Last month, the watchdog said pirate attacks dropped slightly in 2011 for the first time in five years thanks to increased security, but added the situation off lawless Somalia remained a concern.
Around the globe there were 439 recorded incidents of piracy and armed robbery last year, compared to 445 in 2010, which was the fourth consecutive year of increased piracy, it said.