Somali pirates hijacked two more cargo vessels and opened fire on a third on Tuesday in attacks that showed their determination to continue striking shipping in the area’s strategic waterways. The capture of the Greek-owned MV Irene E.M. and Togo-flagged MV Sea Horse were a clear sign the sea gangs have not been deterred by two raids in recent days in which U.S. and French special forces have killed five pirates.

new-somNATO Lieutenant Commander Alexandre Fernandes said the Portuguese warship NRP Corte-Real had received a pre-dawn distress call from the St. Vincent and the Grenadines-flagged Irene E.M. as it travelled through the Gulf of Aden.

“There was only three minutes between the alarm and the hijack,” Fernandes told Reuters aboard the warship. “They attacked at night, which was very unusual. They were using the moonlight as it’s still quite bright.”

The Greek merchant marine ministry said the Irene E.M.’s 22 crew were Filipinos. The East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme, which tracks piracy, said they were all unharmed. The bulk carrier was sailing from Jordan to India. Its Piraeus-based owners were not immediately available for comment.

Hours later, NATO officials on the NRP Corte-Real said a second ship, the nearly 5,000-tonne MV Sea Horse, had also been seized about 77 nautical miles (143 km) off Somalia. They said it was hijacked by pirates on board three or four skiffs, but they had no other immediate details.



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