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Friday, April 28, 2006

Pirates hijack another ship in south Somalia

NAIROBI, April 28 (Reuters) - Somali pirates have hijacked a ship in southern Somalia in the latest attack off the country's lawless coast, a maritime official said late on Friday.

The Kismayu-bound ship was hijacked by Somali gunmen on Thursday and commandeered to a coastal town near Harardheere where two other vessels are still being held by gunmen.

"The boat was heading to Kismayu when pirates opened fire at it," said Andrew Mwangura, of the Seafarers Assistance Programme, a Kenyan-based organisation representing sailors in the region.

"They commandeered it to Gann, 18 km north of Harardheere," he told Reuters by phone from the coastal town of Mombasa.

The owner of the ship was not immediately clear.

Somalia waters have become among the most dangerous in the world since warlords ousted military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 ushering in an era of anarchy in the Horn of African country.

Typically pirates on speedboats attack ships plying Somalia's Indian Ocean, frequently opening fire before mounting the vessels.

"Other details are still vague but we understand some of the crew are Indonesians," Mwangura said.

Meanwhile Kenyan police in the coastal town of Mombasa have arrested three men after discovering two AK-47 automatic rifles and 119 rounds of ammunition in their boat.

The police said they want to establish whether the three men -- an Asian and two Somalis -- had any links with piracy in the Indian Ocean.

"The three suspects are likely to be arraigned in court on Tuesday to be charged with illegal possession of firearms and maritime crimes if any," said Stephen Munguti, chief of police at the port of Mombasa. (Additional reporting by Celestine Achieng in Mombasa)
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