Pirates have kidnapped nine crew members after hijacking a Norwegian cargo ship off the coast of the West African country of Benin.
The gypsum cargo ship, owned by the Norwegian shipping company J.J. Ugland, was hijacked by pirates on Saturday. The nine crew members who have been kidnapped are all Filipino citizens, according to the Norwegian public broadcasting company NRK.
In a statement given to NRK, J.J. Ugland said: “For the sake of crew members, Ugland does not want to comment any more on the situation.”
Not much is currently known about the identity of the pirates, however, it is believed that the attack on the cargo ship was financially motivated.
Morten Bøås, a senior researcher at the Norwegian Foreign Policy Institute, said that because Filipino citizens are rarely targeted by groups in Africa, it suggests that the motive was economic, not political.
He went on to explain that it is likely that after the hijackers found nothing of value on the ship, they kidnapped the crew members in order to extract ransom money from the shipping company.
Bøås said that the hostages have been taken ashore and that it is possible that they have been transported to one of Benin’s neighbouring countries such as Niger or Nigeria, which would likely protract the process of freeing the hostages.
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The Gulf of Guinea, which stretches from Cameroon to Liberia, has overtaken Somalia as the world’s most dangerous piracy hotspot.
At the peak of the Somali piracy epidemic of 2010-2011, pirates cost the shipping industry an estimated 7 billion dollars.
Despite the rate of piracy having declined globally, attacks on ships by pirates demanding ransoms in the Gulf have become more and more common, particularly along the coast of Nigeria, causing major disruptions to international shipping in the area.
According to the BBC, 62 people have been kidnapped at sea in the area this year alone.
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