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Nigeria's navy 'thwarts attack by pirates'

Mary Harper Africa editor, BBC World Service

The Nigerian navy says it has foiled a pirate attack on a British-flagged cargo ship about 20 nautical miles from the coastal city of Bonny.

A navy spokesman said it deployed a warship which used its superior firepower to fight off the pirates. Special forces then rescued the ship's crew who had locked themselves into a safe room.

There has been an increase in hijackings and other violent activity in Nigeria's oil-rich Delta region since President Muhammadu Buhari took office last year.

Chasing West Africa’s pirates

ake a boat ride out from the Nigerian port of Lagos and it is easy to see why piracy, sea robbery and other forms of maritime crime are such a problem.

The ocean is swarming with cargo ships, oil tankers, barges and other vessels waiting for permission to enter the overcrowded port.

Great hulks of rusting metal, anchored and sitting low in the water, almost as if they are inviting pirates to sling their ladders over the side and clamber up on board.

"It was 14 August 2014," says Nigerian navigation officer Rotimi George.

"At around 2am I heard banging on my cabin door: Boom, boom, boom, boom. 'Pirate attack, pirate attack'. They seized the captain, who was Russian, and the Ukrainian chief officer."

Mr George is one of hundreds of seafarers who have been attacked this year off the coast of West Africa one of the world's top piracy spots - and far more dangerous than the waters off Somalia.

Psychological scars

According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) and the Oceans Beyond Piracy group, there has been an escalation in violence.

They say significantly more seafarers were killed and wounded in the first nine months of 2014 than for the whole of 2013, when more than 1,200 were affected.

This is believed to be a conservative estimate, as the IMB says about two-thirds of attacks off the coast of West Africa go unreported.


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