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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Pirates Attack Russian Oil Tanker Off Somalia Coast

BBC News
A Russian warship is rushing to assist an oil tanker which has been hijacked by Somali pirates off East Africa.

The Marshal Shaposhnikov was heading to assist the Moscow University, which was attacked 500 miles (800km) off the Somali coast, officials said.

Shots were fired at the 96,000-tonne tanker from two speedboats, the ship's owner said.

The 23 Russian crew on board are reported to have locked themselves in the ship's radar room.

"At the time of the attack, the Moscow University was heading east with a final destination of China," said the European Union's Navfor naval force in a statement.

It added that the crew were all believed to be in good health.

Pirates have seized dozens of ships in the Indian Ocean in recent years, leading several nations to send warships to the area to protect commercial shipping.

Somalia has not had a functioning national government for nearly 20 years.

Numerous groups of pirates are currently holding more than 350 hostages as well as about 20 ships at various bases around the country.