Pirates kill 1, kidnap 15 crew of Turkish ship off W Africa

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Turkey launched diplomatic efforts to find crew members that were kidnapped after a pirate attack on a Turkish cargo ship off Nigeria, according to diplomatic sources.

Pirates attacked a Turkish cargo ship off the West African coast, kidnapping 15 sailors and killing one, officials said on Jan. 24.

Turkey’s Maritime Directorate said the crew initially locked themselves in a safe area but the pirates forced entry after six hours. During the struggle, one crew member aboard the M/V Mozart died.

Turkish media identified the victim as engineer Farman Ismayilov of Azerbaijan, the only non-Turkish crew member.

After taking most of the crew on Jan. 23, the pirates left the ship in the Gulf of Guinea with three sailors aboard, state-run Anadolu Agency said. The vessel is currently heading to Gabon’s Port-Gentil.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has twice spoken to the senior officer remaining on the ship, Furkan Yaren, the Turkish presidency said in a tweet. It added that Erdoğan issued orders for the recovery of the kidnapped crew.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also talked to Yaren and received information about the incident and the situation on the ship.

Çavuşoğlu spoke to Osman Levent Karsan, the operator of the company that owns the ship and conveyed his condolences, emphasizing that necessary actions will be taken to rescue the crew as soon as possible and return them safely.

Çavuşoğlu spoke to his Azerbaijani counterpart to offer condolences and said the body of the crew member would be transferred when the Mozart reaches port.

“The owners and operators of the M/V Mozart, which was hijacked at gunpoint in the Gulf of Guinea, have regretfully confirmed that one of its crew has been killed and others abducted,” Istanbul-based Boden Maritime said in a statement.

Company officials expressed condolences and support for the crew’s families, it said.

They called for a sensitive approach to the rescue for the sake of crew members and underlined they were trying to solve the problem as soon as possible in the safest way.

Turkish embassies in surrounding countries, including Nigeria, have been mobilized for the crew, diplomatic sources added.

The Liberian-flagged Mozart was sailing from Lagos, Nigeria, to Cape Town in South Africa when it was attacked 100 nautical miles (185 km) northwest of the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe on Jan. 23 morning.

According to reports, the pirates disabled most of the ship’s systems, leaving only the navigation system for the remaining crew to find their way to the port. The Maritime Traffic website showed the vessel’s location was last recorded at 16:39 GMT on Jan. 23.

A tape recording had been shared on Twitter and believed to be belonging to the captain of the ship says: “I don’t know where I’m going. The pirates dismantled all cables, nothing is working. Only the navigator works. They gave me a route, I’m moving accordingly.”

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

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

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