ISTANBUL (TURKEY) – A container ship, MV Mozart, in the Gulf of Guinea was attacked violently and 15 sailors in it were kidnapped by Pirates off Nigeria’s coast.
According to government reports, one sailor, an Azerbaijani citizen, was killed in the raid, while those kidnapped are from Turkey.
According to accounts from crew, family members and security, the attack was described as a sophisticated and well-orchestrated attack on Saturday. The armed pirates boarded the ship and breached its protective citadel, possibly with explosives, according to sources.
Three sailors remain on the Mozart, which by Sunday evening was receiving assistance in Gabonese waters off central Africa.
“The ship is in our waters and our sailors are assisting a few nautical miles from Port Gentil,” said Gabon’s presidency spokesman Jessye Ella Ekogha, without providing further detail.
The Liberian-flagged vessel was headed to Cape Town from Lagos when it was attacked 160 kilometres (100 miles) off Sao Tome island on Saturday, maritime reports showed.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s office said on Sunday that he spoke twice by phone with the ship’s fourth captain, Furkan Yaren, who remained aboard after the attack. They also said he was orchestrating officials in the “rescue of kidnapped ship personnel”.
According to State-run news agency, Yaren had been “cruising blindly” toward Gabon with damage to the ship’s controls and only the radar working. The pirates beat crew members, and left him with an injured leg while another still aboard the ship had shrapnel wounds, he said.
Turkish media cited Istanbul-based ship owner Boden company which said the owners and operators of the vessel were abducted at gunpoint.
Ambrey, a security company, said four armed men boarded the Mozart and entered the citadel – where crew are advised to hide in any attack – from a deck atop the cabin.
Edward Yeibo, a Nigerian Navy commander, said he was not aware of the attack and seeking details.
With this attack Nigeria could face mounting international pressure to do more to protect shippers.
“The fact that someone died, the number of people taken and the apparent use of explosives to breach the ship’s citadel means it is a potential game-changer,” said David Johnson, CEO of the UK-based EOS Risk Group.
“It’s clearly quite sophisticated and if pirates have decided to use munitions it’s a big move,” he said. There is “no doubt” those kidnapped will be taken back to Nigeria’s Delta and Turkey will have little hope stopping it, he added.
Turkey’s foreign ministry said the pirates had not made any contact with Ankara.
Pirates in the Gulf, which borders more than a dozen countries, kidnapped 130 sailors in 22 incidents last year, accounting for all but five of those seized worldwide according to an International Maritime Bureau report.
Seyit Kaya, brother of the ship’s kidnapped 42-year-old captain Mustafa Kaya, a father of two, said in an interview he awaited details from the ship’s owner on any possible ransom.
“Since that area is where many attacks take place, they take cautions against pirates,” said Kaya, who is also a sailor.