Armed pirates attacked a Turkish cargo ship off the coast of West Africa and kidnapped 15 sailors and killed one of them, officials said on Sunday, as Turkey seeks to recover the captive crew.
The Liberian flag-flying M / V Mozart was sailing from Lagos, Nigeria to Cape Town, South Africa, when it was attacked on Saturday morning 100 nautical miles (185 kilometers) northwest of the island of Sao Tome and Principe.
The Turkish Naval Directorate said that the crew initially confined themselves in a safe area, but the pirates were forced to enter after six hours. During the conflict, one of the crew members on board died. The victim was identified as Azerbaijani engineer Farman Ismailov, the only non-Turkish crew member.
The official Anatolia News Agency said that the pirates left the ship in the Gulf of Guinea with three sailors on board after kidnapping most of its crew. According to reports, the pirates have disabled most of the ship’s systems, leaving only the navigation system for the remaining crew to find their way to the port. The ship is currently heading to the port of Gentil Gabon.
The Gulf of Guinea, off the coast of Nigeria, Guinea, Togo, Benin and Cameroon, is the most dangerous sea in the world for piracy, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
Dryad Global, the maritime security adviser, described the attack as “an exceptional accident in terms of its severity and its distance from the shore.” The London-based company added that the number of appearances in waters off West Africa last year rose to 18 from 13 in 2019.
Mevlüt Çavuşolu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said that he had spoken to Mozart’s remaining senior officer, Furkan Yarin, and that the morale and physical condition of the sailors aboard were good.
“We are continuing coordinated negotiations for the release of” the kidnapped sailors, he said. “The hackers haven’t given any response yet.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office said in a tweet that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke twice to Yarin. She added that Erdogan had issued orders to remove the kidnapped crew.
“The owners and operators of M / V Mozart, which was kidnapped at gunpoint in the Gulf of Guinea, unfortunately confirmed the killing of one of its crew members and the kidnapping of others,” Istanbul-based Boden Maritime said.
Cavusoglu spoke to his Azerbaijani counterpart to offer condolences and said that the body would be taken when Mozart arrived at the port.
In July 2019, 10 Turkish sailors were kidnapped off the coast of Nigeria. They were released less than a month later.