Russia asks Somalia not to provoke pirates holding Russians

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Moscow, May 29 (UNI) Russia today called on Somalia not to take any action that may jeopardise the safety of Russian and Filipino crew members aboard a Dutch vessel recently seized by pirates.

''Following reports that the Somali government made a decision to use force to release the crew of the vessel, seized on May 26, Russia urges Somali authorities to refrain from any action that could put the lives of the crew in danger,'' Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said it was in contact with the owner, Dutch Reider Shipping, and governments capable of assisting in the release of the sailors.

The cargo vessel Amiya Scan, under the flag of Antigua and Barbuda, was captured by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden last Monday with four Russians and five Filipinos on board.

Local authorities dispatched forces yesterday to rescue the vessel.

Ahmed Said Ownur, fisheries and water resources minister of Puntland, a breakaway region in the northeast of the African state, confirmed yesterday that a mission had been launched to release the ship by force and asked the ship owner not to pay ransom to the pirates.

Puntland security forces rescued a hijacked vessel from the United Arab Emirates last month, killing at least one pirate.

Seven pirates were arrested.

Last Tuesday, Russian Navy urged international navies to launch joint operations against pirates that have recently stepped up attacks on ships off Africa's coasts.

''Coordinating operations by naval forces in the zones of pirate attacks could help partly resolve the problem,'' the spokesman for the Russian Navy Captain Igor Dygalo said.

Pirate attacks have risen across the world, with most attacks occurring along the Somali coast, where more than 25 ships were seized last year.

UNI XC SYU RN1717

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