SEOUL, South Korea – Somali pirates warned a South Korean destroyer chasing a hijacked supertanker with 24 sailors on board not to get any closer or else risk endangering the crew, Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said today.
All crew members of the South Korean-operated, Marshall Island-flagged Samho Dream are safe, the pirates said by phone Wednesday through the tanker’s captain in the first contact since the hijacking Sunday in the Indian Ocean.
However, “the safety of the sailors will be in jeopardy” if the destroyer sails any closer, the pirates warned, a ministry official said.
Pirates have been on a streak of ship hijackings in recent weeks, with at least 16 ships and some 240 crew members believed held captive off Somalia’s lawless coast.
On Wednesday, pirates hijacked a Turkish vessel with a crew of 25 off the Kenyan coast, according to the EU Naval Force.
The Samho Dream, loaded with about $160 million in crude oil, was hijacked on Sunday. A South Korean naval destroyer on anti-piracy patrol in the area took off in pursuit of the 300,000-ton tanker and caught up with it the next day, officials in Seoul said.
The captain said the pirates are “heavily armed.”