Pirates kidnap US sailors off Nigerian coast

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Pirates have attacked an oil supply vessel off the Nigerian coast and kidnapped the captain and chief engineer, both US citizens, security sources said on Thursday.

Pirate attacks off Nigeria’s coast have jumped by a third this year as ships passing through West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, a major commodities route, have increasingly come under threat from gangs wanting to snatch cargoes and crews.

The US-flagged, C-Retriever, owned by US marine transport group Edison Chouest Offshore, was attacked in the early hours of Wednesday, UK-based security firm AKE and two security sources said. The company was not immediately available for comment.

In a separate incident, three Nigerian soldiers were killed on Tuesday when armed robbers attacked a vessel carrying construction workers in the creeks of oil-producing Rivers state, the army said on Thursday.

Unlike the dangerous waters off Somalia and the Horn of Africa on the east coast of Africa, through which ships now speed with armed guards on board, many vessels have to anchor to do business off West African countries, with little protection.

This makes them a soft target for criminals and jacks up insurance costs. Kidnapped sailors and oil workers taken in Nigerian waters are usually released after a ransom is paid.

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