23 sailors kidnapped in tanker attack

LAGOS | Armed pirates raided a tanker off the West African coast and kidnapped 23 sailors Wednesday, sailing off with the vessel in waters increasingly at risk of piracy, an international monitoring group said.

The International Maritime Bureau, which monitors piracy worldwide, said pirates boarded the tanker as it idled about 62 nautical miles from Benin’s capital of Cotonou.

Pirates struck as the vessel tried to transfer its cargo to another ship, the bureau said.

The pirates sailed off with the crew to an unknown location, the bureau said.

The attack occurred as another vessel in the same area came under attack from pirates. In that case, however, the crew was able to lock themselves into a strongroom and wait for the attackers to leave, the bureau said.

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea over the past eight months has escalated from low-level armed robberies to hijackings, cargo thefts and large-scale robberies, according to the Denmark-based security firm Risk Intelligence.

Last month, London-based Lloyd’s Market Association, an umbrella group of insurers, listed Nigeria, neighboring Benin and nearby waters in the same risk category as Somalia, where two decades of war and anarchy have allowed piracy to flourish.

West African pirates also have been more willing to use violence, beating crew members and shooting and stabbing those who get in the way. Analysts say many of the pirates come from Nigeria, where corrupt law enforcement allows criminality to thrive.


African Union pushes for ‘inclusive’ Libya

PRETORIA | A top-level African Union team met Wednesday to discuss ways to press for an inclusive government in Libya, with the region still refusing to recognize the new leadership in Tripoli.

South African President Jacob Zuma hosted the meeting in Pretoria for the AU panel, which included the leaders of Uganda, Mauritania, Mali and Congo-Brazzaville.

Presidents Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda were expected at the talks, along with Mauritania’s foreign minister and Mali’s ambassador to Pretoria.

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