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China vows to rescue hijacked ship

BEIJING, Oct 20 – China vowed Tuesday to make "all-out efforts" to rescue a Chinese cargo ship hijacked by armed Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean northeast of the Seychelles.

"We will continue to follow developments closely and make all-out efforts to rescue the hijacked ship and personnel," foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told reporters, while giving no details of China’s plans.

China sent three navy ships to the Somali coast in January to join world efforts to protect shipping in the region from pirates and has previously come to the aid of some stricken vessels, Chinese state media reports have said.

According to the European Union’s anti-piracy naval mission, the ship was seized 550 nautical miles northeast of the Seychelles and 700 nautical miles off the pirate-plagued east coast of Somalia.

The ship, called "De Xin Hai," was hijacked on Monday, said Ma, who gave no further details on the vessel or its crew.

However a statement on the website of China’s transport ministry said the vessel was carrying coal and was sailing from South Africa to India with a 25-member crew.

EU naval spokesman John Harbour told AFP they were all Chinese nationals.

A spokesman for the ship’s owner Qingdao Ocean Shipping Company, which is based in the eastern China city of Qingdao, also confirmed to AFP that the 25 seamen were all employees of the company.

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"We still cannot get in touch with them," he said, refusing to give his name or any further details.

The hijacking of the Chinese ship brings to six the total number of vessels currently in the hands of Somali pirates.

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