14 September 2011
) — Armed pirates raided a tanker off the West African coast and kidnapped 23 sailors Wednesday, taking off with the vessel in waters that are increasingly at risk of piracy, an international monitoring group said. LAGOS, Nigeria
The International Maritime Bureau, which tracks piracy worldwide, said pirates boarded the tanker as it idled about 62 nautical miles from
Benin 's capital of . Pirates struck as the Cyprus-flagged vessel tried to transfer its cargo of crude oil to a Norwegian-registered ship, said Cyrus Mody, a manager at the bureau. Cotonou
The pirates sailed off with the crew to an unknown location, Mody said.
The ship, called the Mattheos I, had a Filipino crew with Spanish, Peruvian and Ukrainian officers, said Serghios Serghiou, the director of
Cyprus ' Department of Merchant Shipping.
authorities and the ship Cyprus 's Spanish management company had not been able to confirm Wednesday whether a hijacking took place. "The ship sent out the initial security alert, but unfortunately, we haven 't been able to communicate with the ship," Serghiou said.
The pirates attacked the Norwegian ship at the same time, though the crew was able to lock themselves into a strong room and wait for the attackers to leave, Mody said.
Over the last eight months, piracy in the
has escalated from low-level armed robberies to hijackings and cargo thefts, according to the Denmark-based security firm Risk Intelligence. Last month, London-based Lloyd Gulf of Guinea 's Market Association, an umbrella group of insurers, listed Nigeria, neighboring Benin and nearby waters in the same risk category as , where two decades of war and anarchy have allowed piracy to flourish. Somalia
West African pirates also have been more willing to use violence — beating crew members, and shooting and stabbing those who get in the way. Analysts believe many of the pirates come from
, where corrupt law enforcement allows criminality to thrive. Nigeria