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Pirates attack French vessel off Nigerian coast

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 , Posted by Linda at 10:23 AM

PARIS – Pirates hijacked a French boat and took its nine crew members hostage in the latest attack in some of the world's most dangerous waters off oil-rich southern Nigeria, the boat's owner said Monday.

This photo taken Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009 provided by French Defense Minister shows AP – This photo taken Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009 provided by French Defense Minister shows suspected pirates arrested

The captain of the Bourbon Leda was able to speak with the boat's owners Sunday and said that all nine crew members were unharmed, according to a statement by the company, Bourbon, which provides specialist boats for the oil and gas industry. It said in the statement Monday that it was working to free the crew.

Piracy is rampant in the waters off Nigeria with attacks and hostage-taking linked to militants pressing the Nigerian government to send more oil proceeds to the region.

Bourbon spokeswoman Stephanie Elbaz said she believed the nine — five Nigerians, two Ghanaians, one person from Cameroon and one from Indonesia — remained on the supply vessel. She said she had no information about the number of pirates or their demands.

It was the second time in just more than two months that a boat owned by Bourbon was attacked and those aboard taken hostage.

Seven French and three African oil workers seized Oct. 31 from a tugboat off the coast of Cameroon were freed 11 days later. French officials said no ransom was paid then.

The latest attack comes as pirate attacks increase, particularly off the coast of Somalia. A French navy vessel thwarted two attacks Sunday by heavily armed Somali pirates on cargo ships in the dangerous Gulf of Aden and captured 19 of them.

In 2008, pirates attacked 111 ships in the Gulf of Aden, hijacking 42 of them, and receiving tens of millions of dollars in ransoms.

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