By Jon Gambrell
LAGOS, Nigeria –Pirates kidnapped two Russian sailors during an attack on a cargo ship off the coast of Cameroon, the latest act of violence along West Africa’s increasingly insecure coast, a private security official said last Wednesday.
The official told The Associated Press about 20 armed pirates boarded the MV North Spirit, a cargo ship carrying fertilizer and soya beans, as it docked last Sunday night off Cameroon’s commercial capital of Douala.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said the pirates forced the sailors to lay face down on the upper deck as they stole the ship’s equipment and the sailors’ personal belongings.
The pirates then took the ship’s captain and chief engineer hostage, the official said, adding that there has been no ransom demand.
The attack comes as acts of violent piracy increase along the Gulf of Guinea that Cameroon shares with Nigeria and more than a half-dozen other countries. In March, pirates who identified themselves as the ”Africa Marine Commando” group kidnapped seven Chinese nationals working for a fishing company off Cameroon’s Bakassi Peninsula. Later that month, pirates attacked a Ghanaian ship and kidnapped two sailors for ransom.
In 2008, pirates in the same region kidnapped and later released seven French and three African workers for French oil giant Total.
The International Maritime Bureau, which tracks piracy worldwide, identified 28 pirate attacks in neighboring Nigeria alone in 2009. Officials at the bureau also believe even more attacks likely went unreported, either due to companies worried about having higher insurance premiums or concerns about advertising their security weaknesses.