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Pirates hijack Italian ship off Nigeria

Three Italians taken hostage along with another crewmember

24 December, 16:55
Pirates hijack Italian ship off Nigeria (ANSA) - Rome, December 24 - Pirates hijacked a tug crewed by three Italians and another man whose nationality is unknown off the oil-rich southern Nigerian region of Bayelsa Sunday, the Italian foreign ministry said Monday. Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi is personally following the case and the ministry's crisis unit is monitoring developments "carefully", it said, with the safety of the hostages the top priority.

Contacted by ANSA, the ministry said the ship was the Mv Asso Ventuno, owned by Naples-based Augusta Offshore. The pirates hijacked the tug on Sunday about 40 nautical miles off the Bayelsa coast.

Hijackings of ships are frequent in Nigerian waters but unlike Somali pirates who always hold crews for ransom, their Nigerian counterparts are usually more interested in the cargo. According to the International Maritime Bureau, no crew member was harmed while the ship was steered ashore without being damaged.

The Nigerian navy said a search for the four crewmembers had started immediately.

Last year Nigeria and neighbouring Benin began joint naval patrols in an effort to combat the threat of pirates.