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Children among pirates’ hostages

Seven Danes, 3 of them kids, taken captive on Indian Ocean

LONDON – Three children are among seven Danes who have been kidnapped by pirates on the Indian Ocean, Danish officials said Monday.

The three youths, ages 12 to 16, were taken captive along with their parents and two other adults on board a sailing vessel that put out a distress call last Thursday, the Danish Foreign Ministry said. Media reports said the ship was on its way to Somalia, but the purpose of the voyage was unclear.

It’s believed to be the first time that children have been victims in the spate of hostage-taking bedeviling the waters off eastern Africa. Lene Espersen, Denmark’s foreign minister, said officials were in close contact with the victims’ families.

Espersen said the Danish government would not comment too much on the situation for fear that media attention could negatively affect the outcome. Just two days before the Danish boat issued its distress signal, four Americans aboard another hijacked ship were shot and killed by their Somali captors.

Pirates have become a major scourge in recent years on the high seas of the Indian Ocean and around the Gulf of Aden. Although international naval forces have stepped up patrols, the area is too vast to be completely secured.

Danish officials did not reveal whether the captors of the seven Danes have made any demands.

The European Union Naval Force said Monday that the cargo ship MV Dover had fallen prey to pirates in the northern Arabian Sea. The Greek-owned vessel, on its way to Yemen from Pakistan, has 23 crew members on board, most of them Filipinos. No contact has been established yet with the hijackers.