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Malaysia seeks release of hijacked vessel

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec  3 – Malaysia said it is taking steps to secure the release of a Malaysian-flagged cargo ship and its 23 crew seized by Somali pirates last week in the Indian Ocean.

The MV Albedo container vessel was en route from the United Arab Emirates to Kenya when it was hijacked on Friday after sailing around the Seychelles, a distant 900 nautical miles east of the Somali coast.

The vessel, whose 23 crew members are from Pakistan, Iran, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, was being taken towards central Somalia, maritime watchdog Ecoterra International said on Tuesday.

Malaysia\’s foreign ministry said in a statement late Wednesday that it was "closely monitoring" the developments, and confirmed there were no Malaysians on board the vessel.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also liaising with the relevant Malaysian agencies to secure the release of the vessel and crew as well as with respective missions whose nationals were on board the vessel," it said.

The vessel, owned by the Majestic Enrich Shipping firm based in northern Malaysia, has not received any ransom demand from the pirates, according to the New Straits Times newspaper Thursday.

"The vessel is being towed to Somalia (by the pirates). Only when they reach their destination, we will know whether or not there will be a ransom demand," Malaysia\’s national security council secretary Mohamed Thajudeen Abdul Wahab told the paper, saying the council has been in contact with the ship owner.

In 2008 Somali pirates hijacked two Malaysian-owned ships, which were released after payment of a ransom.

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Naval powers have deployed dozens of warships to patrol the region\’s waters but they have failed to stem piracy, one of the few thriving businesses for coastal communities in Somalia, a country devastated by war and poverty.

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