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article imagePirates seize oil tanker and 24 hostages in gunfight off Togo

By Darren Weir     Aug 28, 2012 in World
Pirates have seized a Greek oil tanker and 24-crew on board, after a gun battle with a naval patrol boat off the coast of Togo.
The Associated Press reports the pirates attacked the tanker before storming on board, and taking control of its bridge and escaping in a blaze of gunfire with a naval patrol boat.
The International Maritime Bureau, an anti-piracy organization, says there were 24 crew members on board the ship at the time and it's not known yet if anyone was hurt.
The Associated Press says the tanker was anchored about 17-nautical miles offshore from the Togolese capital of Lome when the crew sent out an alarm to alert the navy about the attack.
Noel Choong, from the International Maritime Bureau tells AP, the navy boat and the pirates exchanged gunfire, but there has been no confirmation yet from the Togolese navy.
Choong says this latest attack comes just one week after a similar attack on another tanker in the region. In that attack, the pirates released the crew after stealing the cargo of oil. Over the past year piracy in the area around West Africa's Gulf of Guinea, has escalated from simple robberies to hijackings and the theft of cargo.
Choong tells AP, "Judging the past attacks, they'll take the vessel for several days, ransack it, take the cargo and leave the sailors."
Experts suspect the latest hijackings of oil tankers is the work of a single, sophisticated criminal gang with knowledge of the ships and the oil industry. They allege that the thieves may have gotten their experience in Nigeria's southern Delta, where thousands of barrels of oil are stolen every day from pipelines that run through the region.
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