Friday, November 27, 2009

Fatal Pirate Attack in West Africa

There was a pirate attack Tuesday off the coast of Africa. Two things make this one especially noteworthy: first is that it occurred not off of Somalia, but rather off the coast of Benin in Western Africa; the second is that sadly this attack killed a Ukrainian crewman aboard the target ship.

While the Somali pirates have grabbed the world's attention (including Fox News, who last weekend did a surprisingly good hour-long report on the Somali pirate problem), the west coast of Africa - particularly the stretch of coastline between Nigeria and Liberia - has a small, but persistent pirate problem of its own. Western Africa offers a tempting mix for would-be pirates: plentiful shipping related to the oil wealth of states like Nigeria, along with quasi-lawless regions, particularly in Sierra Leone and Liberia (which are both recovering from long civil wars) to provide safe havens.

In Tuesday's attack, pirates boarded the Liberian-flagged tanker Cancale Star. Unlike their Somali counterparts who try to capture entire ships and hold them for ransom, the West Coast pirates were after the contents of the ship's safe, which they stole and took with them. The attack though left one of the Cancale Star's crew dead and one pirate, a Nigerian, in custody. Authorities in Benin are now trying to track down the rest of the pirate crew.
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