Pirates hijack Japanese ship off coast of Kenya

Somali pirates hijacked a Japanese-operated cargo ship off the coast of Kenya, the only successful seizure in a weekend of a dozen attempts, a maritime official said on Monday.

The Izumi, operated by NYK-Hinode Line Ltd, was carrying a 20-strong crew from the Philippines, the Japanese transport ministry said in Tokyo. The 14,000 tonne Panama-flagged ship was en route to Mombasa carrying a cargo of steel, the operator said in a statement.

The ministry said it lost touch with the ship on Sunday, while Ecoterra, an advocacy group that monitors piracy off the east African coast, said the ship was seized in Somali waters, quoting NATO officials.

Andrew Mwangura of the Kenya-based East African Seafarers Association said the ship was seized in the early hours of Monday and it may take a few days to get to the pirate lair of Hobyo in Somalia.

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