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Shipping alert level raised for Gulf of Aden and Somalia

Shipping alert level raised for Gulf of Aden and Somalia

London: This week's renewal of pirate attacks on shipping in the Gulf of Aden/Somalia, coupled with a local AlQaeda threat of a possible terror strike on shipping , has led UK-based security consultant NavalSecurity.Org to raise its Security Level for the area to 'High (4)'.

A freighter, a bulk carrier and a chemical tanker were all seized this week, despite a large foreign warship presence in the Gulf of Aden.  Latest catch on Tuesday was the MT "St James Park", a UK-flagged chemical tanker with a international crew of 26 on board. The vessel was hijacked en route from Spain to Thailand.

On Monday, Somali pirates captured a Greek-flagged 52,000 dwt bulk carrier "Navios Apollon" transporting fertiliser. The ship was taken en route from Tampa, Florida to Rozy, India, with a crew consisting of a Greek captain and 18 Filipinos. The ship was boarded by 10 men on speedboats in the Indian Ocean northeast of the Seychelles archipelago, according to Greek coastguard.

Earlier, pirates seized a Yemeni freighter and 15 crew members. MV "Al-Mahmoudia 2" had left the port of Aden on December 18, the Yemeni authorities said on Monday, without revealing the nature of its cargo or destination.

The Yemeni freighter and the UK-flagged chemical tanker were both intercepted by pirates in the Gulf of Aden. The two attacks in the Gulf of Aden were the first since August and came as international naval missions were trumpeting the results of a year-long effort to secure the area.

On Sunday, pirates said they collected $3.5 million for the release of the Chinese bulk carrier MV "Dexinhai". The Singapore-flagged MV "Kota Wajar" was also released this week, nearly three months after it was hijacked, following reported payment of a similar ransom.

Meanwhile, the Arabian Peninsula section of AlQaeda issued a communique by internet on December 27 announcing "retaliatory strikes" - as a response to an alleged but unconfirmed US bombing of an AlQaeda stronghold in Yemen last week killing 50 insurgents. It was threatened that strikes would be aimed against western embassies, US military bases in the Gulf region and especially against merchant ships / cruise vessels in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf.  [29/12/09]