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Somali pirates seize German container ship

NAIROBI, Apr 5 – Somali pirates have hijacked a 20,000-tonne German container carrier in the Indian Ocean, a Kenya-based maritime official told AFP on Sunday.

"The ship was taken yesterday (Saturday) far out at sea, around 400 nautical miles from the Somali coast, between Kenya and the Seychelles," said Andrew Mwangura, of the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme.

He said he believed the ship had a crew of around 24 and may have been sailing under a flag of convenience.

The number of attacks by ransom-seeking Somali pirates and their success rate had dipped since the start of the year, owing to an increased international naval presence in the Gulf of Aden and unfavourable seas.

But some pirate groups have ventured further southeast of Somalia to target ships further out at sea, away from heavily-patrolled shipping corridors.

The latest hijacking brings to at least 13 the number of ships currently in pirate hands, and to around 240 the number of hostages.

In 2008, Somali pirates operating on small skiffs and armed with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and grappling hooks have attacked more than 130 ships, close to 50 of them successfully.

Since the start of 2009, 11 successful sea-jackings have been reported.

German navy has a ship operating in the Gulf of Aden as part of a multinational force formed to combat piracy, which has disrupted one of the world\’s busiest maritime trade routes since the surge in attacks in 2007.

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