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South African man tells of pirate drama

Cape Town - Several South Africans were caught up in a piracy drama near the Tanzanian coast early on Tuesday morning.

Bullets flew through the air for several hours after pirates attacked oil and storage vessels belonging to an international company, Ocean Rig, shortly after midnight. Between 15 and 25 South Africans apparently work on the vessels.

But secrecy has surrounded the incident and even the South African government was only able to obtain sketchy details about what had happened.

Ocean Rig, which has offices in several countries like Ghana, Britain, Norway and Tanzania, refused to comment.


One of the South Africans, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the pirates climbed on board after which they “started firing with AK-47s and assault rifles”.

Some of the crew rushed to an armoured hiding place built especially for protection against piracy – also known as a Citadel. They hid here in fear for almost five hours.

“It was initially terrifying because everything happened so quickly… even now, we are not calm.”

At least one of the pirates was apparently shot in the leg.

Somali pirates on the east coast of Africa are holding a total of 277 hostages and 15 vessels, according to the latest information released by the International Chamber of Commerce’s website.

Two South Africans whose yacht was hijacked in the area in October last year, are still being held captive.

The South African government confirmed Tuesday’s attack on the oil vessel on the Tanzanian coast.

“The Tanzanian government is investigating,” said Albie Laubscher, acting co-ordinator for consular services at the department of international relations.

“The position of the vessel could not be confirmed by us. It would definitely appear as though there will be no communication about the incident before the investigation is completed.”

2011-10-05 10:12
Anesca Smith, Die Burger

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