Africa

Ship feared hijacked off Madagascar just 'lost touch'

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A Taiwanese ship feared hijacked by Somali pirates, east of Madagascar, had simply lost touch with its owner, officials now say.

The EU naval force said the report of a seizure was filed earlier in the day because the owner of the Feng Guo had not heard from the crew for two days.

The force welcomed the fact that the fishing boat and its 14 crew members were safe.

It was feared the ship had been seized 435km (270 miles) east of Madagascar.

This would have been over 2,000km (1,250 miles) south of the pirates' bases in Somalia - far from the part of the Indian Ocean normally patrolled by international warships trying to prevent piracy.

The lack of a government in Somalia means pirates can operate freely.

Pirates use "mother ships" to travel long distances, before launching skiffs with pirates, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and machine-guns, who stage the attacks.

The presence of an international force has pushed the gangs further away from the Somali coast.

In March, a ship was attacked closer to India than Somalia.

Pirates are currently holding 369 sailors on 17 ships, according to the EU naval force.

Most ships and their crew have been released unharmed after a ransom is paid.

But EU officials recently warned of the risk that pirates might start to kill hostages if negotiations became bogged down.

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