At Sea: (Off Somali Coast): Agencies: 14/4/2009: Somali pirates hijacked two more cargo vessels and opened fire on two others on Tuesday in attacks that showed a determination to go on striking at shipping on the region’s strategic trade routes.
The 5,000-tonne Togo-flagged MV Sea Horse was taken by gunmen in up to four skiffs, Nato officials said.
Earlier, pirates hijacked a Greek-owned bulk carrier, the MV Irene; in the Gulf of Aden a day after Somali raiders captured two Egyptian fishing boats.
Meanwhile, three Somali pirates who had taken French hostages were in custody in France, French prosecutors said.
The pirates were captured during a military operation to liberate hostages taken on the Tanit, a French yacht overtaken by hostages in the Gulf of Aden on 4 April.
The boat’s French skipper and two other pirates were killed in the operation by French commandoes.
Analysts say the gangs are clearly not put off by that rescue or the liberation of a US skipper in operations that have left several bandits dead.
Somali pirate leaders – who have generally treated captives well in the hope of winning big ransom payouts – vowed on Monday to avenge the deaths.
Officials meanwhile said another pirate gang fired automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades at the Liberian-flagged 21,887-tonne Safmarine Asia. They said it managed to escape and that there was no word of any casualties.
The U.S.-flagged cargo ship Liberty Sun also was attacked by pirates firing rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons, the ship’s owner, New York-based Liberty Maritime Corp, said in a statement.
The pirates damaged the ship but did not manage to board it. Liberty Sun immediately requested help from the U.S. Navy and is now under escort. The ship was carrying U.S. food aid and headed to Mombasa, Kenya, from Houston.
Heavily armed pirates from lawless Somalia have been increasingly striking the busy Indian Ocean shipping lanes and strategic Gulf of Aden, capturing dozens of vessels, hundreds of hostages and making off with millions of dollars in ransoms.