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Kidnapping surge in the Gulf of Guinea

The Gulf of Guinea is not resting. At least 48 people have been kidnapped in the region since the beginning of the year.

At the beginning of January, the tanker Barrett, flying the flag of the Marshall Islands, was kidnapped. The Barrett lay at anchor off Cotonou’s coast, Benin, when the attackers boarded the ship in the early morning hours of January 10th. The ship and 22 crew members were abducted and only released after six days. It is not known whether ransom payments were made and, if so, in what amount.

An astonishingly similar case occurred almost exactly one month later in the same place. The Marine Express was also attacked and kidnapped at Cotonou's anchorage. The 22 crew members were kidnapped again and the ship and crew were released six days later. This time, however, ransom is said to have been paid. The amount of which remains unknown.

In another incident in immediate vicinity, pirates boarded a tanker on February 17th. The armed attackers were discovered by the crew on deck, alarm was triggered and the crew withdrew to the citadel. The notified security forces searched the ship and its surroundings, but were unable to locate the attackers. The crew remained unharmed, but the ship was damaged.

It remains to be seen whether the incidents off Benin are isolated or whether a new hotspot will emerge. Although the attacks occurred in the area of recognised danger zones, this region was calmly unlike the coastal areas of Nigeria, where there have been many attacks for years.

In the last few weeks, however, there have been only minor attacks including one on a passenger ship and a fishing boat. The passenger ship was attacked near the coast on January 9th and a passenger was abducted. Later, the pirates are said to have demanded 30 million Nigerian Naira (approx. 67,000 euros) from the victim's family.

The fishing boat was attacked a month later on February 9th by pirates with machine guns, while three fishermen were kidnapped. Further details are not known.

Sources: IMB, MariTrace, Maritime World News

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