Somalia

Somali pirates grab two Korean fishing boats

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4 Koreans among 24 crewmen held in lawless waters off Africa

Two South Korean-owned fishing vessels were attacked by 12 armed men off the coast of Somalia and their crews kidnapped, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

Kim Bong-hyun, director general of the ministry's Overseas Koreans and Consular Affairs Bureau, said that a 24 crewmen, including four Koreans, were seized. Among those kidnapped was the captain of one vessel, Han Seok-ho, according to the ministry. Other crewmen are Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian and Indonesian.

The vessels were en route from the Kenyan port of Mombasa to Yemen. The ships, the Mavuno I and the Mavuno II, are registered in Tanzania but are owned by a Korean, according to Reuters. The ministry identified the owner as Ahn Hyeon-su. Kim said Ahn was on his way to Kenya to attend to the crisis.

An emergency task force headed by Vice Foreign Minister Kim Ho-young was formed yesterday while the ministry hoped to gain the cooperation of Somalian officials.

As of yesterday afternoon, there were no specific demands made by the pirates and no positive identification of them.

Somalia lies close to key shipping routes connecting the Red Sea with the Indian Ocean, where ships with valuable cargo must pass.

The country has had no effective government since 1991, with warlords battling Islamist insurgents for control. Its long coastline is also ideal for pirates to operate. Somali pirates are well-armed, with global positioning equipment and automatic weapons, according to the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia.

Last August, seven South Korean crewmen on a fishing vessel were released after being held captive by Somali pirates for 117 days along with 17 other crew members. The vessel was seized off the coast of Somalia in early April. The Associated Press reported that a ransom of $800,000 was paid for their release.

Three Koreans kidnapped recently in Nigeria were released last week.

by Brian Lee Staff Writer africanu@joongang.co.kr

JoongAng Daily
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