Pirates Seize Two Americans Off Nigeria, Officials Say

Two U.S. citizens have been kidnapped from an American-flag vessel off the coast of Nigeria in an act of piracy, the State Department said.

“Obviously, our concern at this point is for the safe return” of the two crew members of the ship, the C-Retriever, in the Gulf of Guinea, Marie Harf, a department spokeswoman, told reporters today in Washington. “At this point, we do not have information that would indicate that this is an act of terrorism.”

The C-Retriever is an offshore supply ship, according to vessel data compiled by Bloomberg. Officials today cited an increase in hijackings off Nigeria, the seventh-biggest producer in the 12-member Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in September.

“We are concerned by the disturbing increase in the incidents of maritime crime, including incidents of piracy off the coast of West Africa, specifically in the Gulf of Guinea,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said today in Washington. “And we have and will continue to work with West African governments to build the capacity and political will needed to address piracy and related criminal activity.”

Harf said she couldn’t identify the captured crew members of the C-Retriever for privacy reasons. The vessel is owned by Offshore Service Vessels LLC of Cut Off, Louisiana, an affiliate of Edison Chouest Offshore International.

Before the latest incident, seven vessels were hijacked this year in the Gulf of Guinea and 132 crew taken hostage, according to Oct. 17 data from the International Maritime Bureau, a London-based agency that tracks crime at sea, which didn’t provide comparable figures from a year earlier.

‘Worrying Trend’

“It’s a worrying trend,” said Pottengal Mukundan, a director of the International Maritime Bureau. “The authorities should focus their efforts on trying to prevent these attacks.”

The increase in piracy off the coast of Nigeria comes as officials cite a decline in attacks off Somalia in East Africa amid tighter security and better intelligence to protect ships.

“Compared to 99 attacks in the first nine months of 2012, 17 attacks occurred against ships in the waters off the coast of Somalia in the first nine months of 2013, in which pirates were able to briefly hijack two dhows,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in an Oct. 21 report to the Security Council, citing reports from the International Maritime Organization.

The 2009 hijacking of the container ship Maersk Alabama in the Indian Ocean by Somali pirates has gained new attention through “Captain Phillips,” a movie dramatizing the incident that stars Tom Hanks.

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