Korean Navy destroyer nears supertanker seized by Somali pirates

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Korean Navy destroyer nears supertanker seized by Somali pirates

A South Korean navy destroyer has caught up with a hijacked supertanker under control of Somali pirates, an official at Seoul's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

The destroyer has tracked down the 300,000-ton tanker, Samho Dream, heading to Somali waters, the official told reporters.

"The destroyer, Chungmugong Yi Sun-shin, arrived in waters near the Samho Dream at around 1:20 a.m. [Korean time] and is now operating in its vicinity," he said.

The 4,500-ton destroyer was keeping a close watch over the hijacked vessel about 30 miles away, a defense ministry official said.

The South Korean-operated tanker, carrying five South Korean and 19 Filipino crew members, was seized by pirates in the Indian Ocean on Sunday on its way to the United States from Iraq. It sent a distress call to the South Korean destroyer saying three pirates had boarded it.

The destroyer, which had been operating in Somali waters as part of global efforts to fight piracy, was ordered to speed to the seized ship. Foreign Ministry officials earlier said the destroyer will not attempt to intercept or board the hijacked vessel, as the move could put the ship's crew at a greater risk.

The tanker was believed to be headed toward Somali waters where 26 other commercial and private vessels and about 400 people of varying nationalities are held by pirates, the Foreign Ministry official said.

The ship's South Korean operator, Samho Shipping Company, said the pirates have not yet made any contact to make demands for the release of the ship and its crew members.


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