Pirates hijack tanker off Togo

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Pirates hijacked a Greek-owned oil tanker off Togo on Tuesday in the second attack in less than two weeks in the Gulf of Guinea, the International Maritime Bureau said. The Isle of Man-flagged vessel, which had 24 crew on board and was carrying gas oil, was seized 17 miles off the Togo capital of Lome, where it had reportedly been anchored, said Noel Choong, head of the IMB’s Malaysia-based piracy reporting centre. The hijackers exchanged fire with a Togo navy patrol boat that answered a distress call but managed to elude the patrol by steaming off aboard the tanker, Choong said. “Normally in this area they will hold the ship for four or five days, ransack it and steal part of the cargo, usually gas oil,” Choong said. He added that the perpetrators could be from the same syndicate that hijacked a UK-operated oil tanker on August 19. That vessel, along with 18 people on board, was released Thursday off Nigeria. None of those on board were injured, Choong said, but the pirates made off with some of the gas oil that the vessel was carrying. The IMB has repeatedly warned ships plying the Gulf of Guinea off the west coast of Africa to be vigilant and called on authorities to step up patrols, last year saying the region was emerging as a new piracy “hot spot”.