Somali pirates have hijacked a bulk carrier in the Indian Ocean, their first successful attack in almost a week, a maritime watchdog and pirate commanders said on Saturday.

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Andrew Mwangura, of the East African Seafarers Assistance Program, confirmed the hijacking overnight of the MV Ariana, a large bulk carrier. He had initially said the ship was British-owned but later said it emerged the vessel had Greek owners and a British agent. “The crew of 24 is entirely Ukrainian, we believe they are safe,” he told AFP. “It was coming from Brazil and headed to the Middle East.” According to an agent for the owners, the ship is believed to be carrying 35,000 tonnes of soya. Reports of another ship seized Meanwhile pirates in Haradhere, one of the main bases for the ransom-hunting bandits who have been plying the Indian Ocean, said their group had seized another ship late on Friday. “Our boys have captured two ships. One of them is carrying vehicles,” said a pirate who asked to be named only Hassan. Another commander speaking on condition of anonymity from Haradhere confirmed that two ships had been hijacked but there was some confusion on their flag countries and cargo. The last time Somali pirates seized a Ukrainian ship it was carrying 33 Soviet-type battle tanks. The MV Faina\’s hijacking was one of the longest since Somali piracy surged in 2007. The vessel and its crew were freed in February after a 134-day hostage crisis. Maritime watchdogs and foreign navies could not immediately confirm the second hijacking. If they are both confirmed, the latest hijackings would bring to at least 18 the number of ships currently held by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden. Surge in attacks April saw a surge in attacks owing largely to favourable weather conditions for the pirates, whose ability to board vessels is diminished during the monsoon seasons. Experts say there is still a high-risk window of a few days in May before the seas start getting rougher. Naval ships from the European Union, NATO and other US-led coalitions have thwarted several attacks in recent days, either preventing hijackings or capturing suspected pirates. In recent weeks, foreign navies have apprehended dozens of pirates. Most of them have been either transferred to Kenya for prosecution or released for lack of evidence and legal backing. Commander Chris Davis, from the control centre for the NATO mission protecting merchant ships off Somalia, said the Portuguese frigate Corte Real launched a helicopter on Friday after being informed of an attack on the tanker, the Bahamas-flagged Kition. The helicopter pursued the pirates back to their mother ship, a fishing boat which was later boarded, and weapons including grenade-launchers and explosives were seized, Davis said. However, a Portuguese officer with the NATO force in the Gulf of Aden, Santos Ferreira, told TSF radio that the 19 pirates captured had been released “after contact was made with Somali national authorities”. Davis said in another incident on Thursday a Turkish vessel, the Christina A, was attacked by pirates in two boats off the Kenyan port of Mombasa, but managed to shake them off by increasing speed to 20 knots. About 20 foreign warships patrol the waters off the coast of Somalia — on one of the globe\’s busiest maritime trade routes — on any given day. But the area is huge and pirates have adapted their tactics to hunt for vessels several hundred nautical miles into the Indian Ocean, further away from the heavily-patrolled shipping corridors of the Gulf of Aden.