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Pirates attack Turkish ship off W. Africa; kill 1, kidnap 15

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – Armed pirates attacked a Turkish cargo ship off the coast of West Africa, kidnapping 15 sailors and killing one of them, officials said Sunday as Turkey sought to recover the captured crew.

The Liberian M / V Mozart sailed from Lagos, Nigeria, to Cape Town in South Africa when it was attacked on Saturday morning 100 nautical miles (185 kilometers) northwest of the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe.

Turkey’s Maritime Directorate said the crew initially locked themselves inside a safe area, but the pirates forced entry after six hours. During the battle, a crew member on board died. It identified the victim as engineer Farman Ismayilov from Azerbaijan, the only non-Turkish crew member.

After kidnapping most of the crew, the pirates left the ship in the Gulf of Guinea with three sailors on board, the state news agency Anadolu said. According to reports, the pirates deactivated most of the ship̵

7;s systems, leaving only the navigation system for the remaining crew members to find their way to Gabon’s Port-Gentil.

The Gulf of Guinea, off Nigeria, Guinea, Togo, Benin and Cameroon, is the most dangerous sea in the world for piracy, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

Maritime security consulting firm Dryad Global described the attack as “an unusual incident for both its severity and distance from land.” Last year, boarding in the waters off West Africa rose to 18 from 13 in 2019, the London-based company added.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said he had spoken to the top officer left on Mozart, Furkan Yaren, and that the morale and physical condition of the sailors was good.

“We are continuing coordinated negotiations on release” of the abducted sailors, he said. “The pirates have not yet responded.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has twice spoken to Yaren, his office said in a tweet. It added that Erdogan issued orders to recover the kidnapped crew.

“The owners and operators of M / V Mozart, who was hijacked under arms in the Gulf of Guinea, have regrettably confirmed that one of its crew has been killed and others abducted,” said Istanbul-based Boden Maritime.

Among the prisoners is the ship’s captain, Mustafa Kaya, 41. His brother Seyit from Istanbul said the sailor’s families had been called by Erdogan.

“We hope to see them free soon, unharmed,” he said. “Everyone is trying. We pray for our brothers. ”

In July 2019, 10 Turkish sailors were kidnapped off the coast of Nigeria. They were released less than a month later.

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