Missing ship feared seized by pirates off Somalia

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NAIROBI, Oct 22 (Reuters) A Comoros-registered cargo ship is missing off Somalia and a Kenyan maritime official today said he feared it had been seized by pirates.

If confirmed, the Al Marjan would be the fourth vessel being held by pirates in one of the world's most dangerous waterways.

''We are trying to find its position and who are the gunmen,'' Andrew Mwangura, head of the East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme, told Reuters by telephone.

''At the moment we don't know how many crew are on board and their nationalities.'' The Al Marjan was heading from Somalia to Kenya, he said. Two Tanzanian fishing vessels and one from Taiwan are held by pirates off the Somali coast.

Pirates in two speed boats yesterday attacked another Comoros-registered cargo ship working for the UN World Food Programme (WFP) off the southern Somali coast.

The WFP said the MV Jaikur II escaped by switching off its lights and speeding out into the Indian Ocean.

''WFP reiterates its calls for foreign powers to send naval vessels to international waters off Somalia to hunt down the pirates and protect the transport of humanitarian assistance,'' the UN relief agency said in a statement.

REUTERS SG BD1646

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