Pirates kill sailor, kidnap 15 off Nigeria: report

Armed men killed an Azerbaijani sailor and abducted 15 Turkish crew members from a Turkish cargo ship off the coast of Nigeria, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency reported Sunday.

That left three crew members to sail the Liberian-flagged Mozart owned by a Turkish company, the state agency said. 

Turkish news channel NTV spoke to a sailor still on board who said several crew members were wounded.

The Mozart had been en route from the Nigeria’s economic capital Lagos to Cape Town in South Africa when it was boarded on Saturday. It has now arrived at Port-Gentil in nearby Gabon.

“We have established the necessary contacts with all the countries concerned for the release of our nationals,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on NTV.

“The bandits, the pirates who abducted our citizens have not contacted us yet. These pirates make contact at some point to communicate their demands,” he added.

Earlier, a voice from the Mozart — purportedly that of the new captain — had said on a recording posted on Twitter: “I do not know where I am heading. The pirates cut the cables, only the radar is working.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone to the new captain and was following events closely, his office said.

Ten sailors who were taken hostage from a Turkish vessel off West Africa were released in August 2019.

Pirate attacks on ships worldwide jumped 20 percent last year driven by a record spate of kidnappings off West Africa, the International Maritime Bureau said last week.

A total of 195 incidents of piracy and armed robbery were reported, up from 162 in 2019.

Out of 135 sailors abducted globally last year, 130 were recorded in the Gulf of Guinea — the highest ever number of crew members kidnapped in the area stretching thousands of kilometres (miles) from Senegal to Angola.