On 28 February, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported that armed pirates opened fire on a cargo ship off the Nigerian coast, kidnapped the captain and chief engineer, and robbed the crew before fleeing. The attack also left one of the 14 crew members missing and another injured.
Noel Choong, head of the IMB’s piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, said about eight gunmen attacked the Dutch-owned, Curacao-flagged refrigerated cargo ship near the coast. He said he had received no word yet on any ransom demands.
The IMB said this incident is a continuation of serial piracy attacks in the Gulf of Guinea. In September 2011, the group had warned that the seas off the Republic of Benin, Nigeria’s neighbour to the west, were becoming a new piracy “hotspot”, partly due to the deficiencies of maritime security arrangements in the region.
Choong said: “The attacks off the Nigerian coast are very violent and they are increasing, So far we have seen seven attacks off Nigeria this year and one off Benin. So that makes eight since the beginning of the year and we believe many more attacks may have gone unreported”.
However, in one of the recent incidents in which a tanker was hijacked, the IMB said Nigerian security vessels intercepted the ship and rescued its crew.
On 23 July, a Nigerian student, 20, and his Malaysian girlfriend, 23, were arrested for allegedly faking the girl’s kidnap and demanding a ransom of RM1.47 million (equivalent to N76 million) from her father.
Mohd Adnan Abdullah, a Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police (SAC) and head of Criminal Investigations in Malaysia’s Selangor state, said at about 3pm that day, a man called the girl’s father claiming the girl and her boyfriend had been abducted.
The caller demanded a huge ransom for their release. The girl’s father, who was then in Kuching, capital of Sarawak state, almost 1000 km away, promptly lodged a report with the police.
Mohd Adnan said the Nigerian and the girl were soon picked up at the lobby of a hotel in Penang on the same day. He said: “The couple, who studied at a local private university, said they planned to use the ransom money for their daily expenses and education”.
He added that the suspects had been remanded at the Kajang police station until 30 July to facilitate investigations, after which they may be charged to court. Section 3 of Malaysia’s Kidnapping Act 1961 prescribes the death penalty or life imprisonment for kidnapping.
[PUBLICATION NOTICE: An INSIGHT on Nigerian “Students” and Crime in Malaysia will be published on this website on Saturday, 30 July 2011].