VICTORIA, Seychelles (AFP) — Pirates have captured a luxury boat operating in the Indian Ocean Seychelles archipelago after it dropped off tourists on one of its islands, officials said Wednesday.
It was not clear who the pirates were or when the Indian Ocean Explorer was seized with its seven Seychellois crew members and believed to be sailing towards the Somali coast, they said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Patrick Pillay told reporters his government had contacted naval forces in the region who "guaranteed to track down the boat."
The Indian Ocean Explorer, a high-end cruiser designed for oceanographic research with a state-of-the-art technical suite for underwater photography and diving equipment, is kitted out to hold 12 passengers, according to Abyss executive cruises website.
"The government of Seychelles strongly condemns any act against the property and the people of Seychelles," Transport Minister Joel Morgan said.
Last week, the islands' police chief said three Seychellois sailors had been held hostage by Somali pirates since their catamaran was hijacked in late February.
They had left the archipelago on February 28 for Madagascar.
The Seychelles is known for its white sandy beaches, translucent green waters and luxury resorts, although it is also saddled with one of the world's highest per capita debt burdens and a chronic foreign exchange shortage.
Ransom-hunting Somali pirates attacked more than 130 merchant ships in the region last year, an increase of more than 200 percent on 2007, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
The number and success rate of pirate attacks has declined slightly since the start of the year, due to unfavourable seas and increased foreign naval presence in the Gulf of Aden.
Greek and Spanish forces from a European anti-pirate unit off Somalia arrested seven Somali marauders who tried to capture a German oil tanker off southern Yemen, the Greek merchant navy ministry said Monday.
Faced with the daunting task of covering an area of around one million square kilometres (400,000 square miles), Japan on Tuesday joined the United States, China, European Union states and others in patrolling the key maritime route leading to the Suez Canal.
Two Japanese destroyers, carrying 400 troops and equipped with two patrol helicopters and two speedboats, left Japan early this month for the operation in one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.
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