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Pirates Attack Oil Tanker Off Benin

Pirates have attacked a Monrovia-flagged oil tanker off the coast of the West African country of Benin, killing one seaman, officials said Tuesday.

According to Benin's naval forces, the attack on the 230-meter long Cancale Star took place some 18 nautical miles off the country's coast. The vessel's chief engineer, a Ukrainian, was killed in the attack, which also left four other crew members injured.

Local reports indicated that Benin's naval forces has escorted the tanker to the port of Cotonou, where it is currently berthed. It is understood that the crew of the vessel managed to capture one of the pirates and have handed him over to authorities in Benin.

The chief of Benin's naval forces were quoted by local news agencies as saying that an investigation has been launched into the attack. Though the nationality of the pirates who attacked the Cancale Star is not clear, officials said there were indications that they were from Nigeria.

The attack follows a recent warning from the International Maritime Bureau that piracy is on the rise along the coastline of oil-rich west Africa, with at least a 100 such cases reported last year.

However, most of the pirate attacks in the waters of west Africa happen when the ships are at anchor or close to the shore, unlike the east African coast, where Somali pirates often target ships hundreds of miles from the coast.

The Somali coast, particularity the Gulf of Aden, has been affected by piracy in the recent years. More than 160 pirate attacks have been reported in the waters off Somalia from January to September this year. The Somali pirates have managed to hijack at least 34 vessels, and are currently holding some 10 ships and 200 hostages. Generally, the crew and the vessels are returned unharmed on receiving the demanded ransom.

The pirate attacks off the Somali coast have continued despite the presence of several warships, deployed by navies of the NATO, the European Union, Russia, China, South Korea and India, in the region to protect cargo and cruise ships against piracy in the region.

In addition, the UN Security Council has approved four resolutions since June to promote international efforts to fight the escalating piracy problem off the coast of Somalia, and has authorized countries engaged in anti-piracy operations off the Somali coast to conduct land and air attacks on Somali pirates after obtaining prior permission from the Somali government.

by RTT Staff Writer

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