Turkish officials have confirmed that 15 sailors were kidnapped and one killed by armed pirates that attacked a Turkish cargo ship off the West African coast.
The Liberian-flagged M/V Mozart was reportedly sailing from Lagos, Nigeria, to Cape Town in South Africa when it was attacked Saturday morning 100 nautical miles (185 kilometers) northwest of the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe.
Turkey’s Maritime Directorate said the crew initially locked themselves in a safe area but the pirates forced entry after six hours. During the struggle, one crew member aboard died. It identified the victim as engineer Farman Ismayilov of Azerbaijan, the only non-Turkish crew member.
After kidnapping most of the crew, the pirates left the ship in the Gulf of Guinea with three sailors aboard, state-run Anadolu news agency said. According to reports, the pirates disabled most of the ship’s systems, leaving only the navigation system for the remaining crew to find their way to port. The vessel is currently heading to Gabon’s Port-Gentil.
The Gulf of Guinea, off the coasts of Nigeria, Guinea, Togo, Benin and Cameroon, is the most dangerous sea in the world for piracy, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
Maritime security consultancy Dryad Global described the attack as “an exceptional incident for both its severity and distance from shore.” Last year, boardings in the waters off West Africa rose to 18 from 13 in 2019, the London-based firm added.
Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, said he had spoken to the senior officer remaining on the Mozart, Furkan Yaren, and that the morale and physical condition of the sailors aboard was good.
“We are continuing coordinated negotiations for the release” of the abducted sailors, he said. “The pirates have yet to make any response.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has twice spoken to Yaren, his office said in a tweet. It added that Erdogan issued orders for the recovery of the kidnapped crew.
“The owners and operators of the M/V Mozart, which was hijacked at gunpoint in the Gulf of Guinea, have regretfully confirmed that one of its crew has been killed and others abducted,” Istanbul-based Boden Maritime said.
Cavusoglu spoke to his Azerbaijani counterpart to offer condolences and said the body would be transferred when the Mozart reaches port.
In July 2019, 10 Turkish seamen were kidnapped off the coast of Nigeria. They were released less than a month later.