Pirates seize ship with 20 Filipinos off Somalia - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Pirates seize ship with 20 Filipinos off Somalia

MANILA, Philippines - Pirates have seized a cargo ship with 20 Filipino sailors on board off the coast of Somalia, a Philippine government official said Wednesday.

The pirates climbed aboard the bulk carrier Stella Maris in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Estaban Conejos told reporters.

The Japanese owner of the ship has been in contact with the crew and they are safe off the northeastern tip of Somalia, Conejos said.

He ruled out the Philippine government paying a ransom to free the hostages, saying it is against policy.

"We look toward the local manning agents and the ship owner and the host country because they have the responsibility to ensure the safety and the earliest release of the crew," he said.

Pirate attacks in Somalia and Nigeria have gone up in the first quarter of 2008, making Africa the world's top piracy hotspot, the International Maritime Bureau reported earlier this month.

In April, Somali pirates seized a luxury French yacht with 30 crew, including 22 French and six Filipinos. A week later, helicopter-borne French troops swooped in on the pirates after they released the hostages, arresting six of them.

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