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Somali pirates hold Dutch firm's crew hostage

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  • Somali pirates hijack ship and take nine crew members hostage
  • Dutch shipping firm in contact with pirate gang
  • 24 ships have been hijacked off Somalia's coast already this year
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AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (CNN) -- A Dutch shipping company has been in contact with Somali pirates who hijacked a ship with nine crew members as it traveled through the Gulf of Aden on Sunday, a spokesman said Tuesday.

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Last month French commandoes landed in Somalia and captured a group of pirates.

Lars Walder, of Reider Shipping BV, which owns the MV Amiya Scan, revealed the company has been in contact with the hijackers and that none of the crew had been harmed.

"Everybody was fine under the circumstances," he said, speaking from Winschoten, Netherlands. "They were all fine ... [and] were treated quite well."

The ship was anchored off the coast of Somalia, within Somalia's 20-kilometer (12-mile) territorial limit, Walder said.

He would not comment on the pirates' demands out of concern for the crew of four Russians and five Filipinos, and would not say whether the shipping company was negotiating with them.

He said he assumed the pirate gang was armed but they have not told him how many they are or whether the are associated with any group.

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The ship, carrying parts of an old oil rig, was chartered by Scan-Trans Shipping, and was traveling from Kenya to Romania, Walder said. It flies under an Antiguan flag.

"Of course, we hope we get our people," Walder said. He said that the shipping company had contacted all relevant countries for help, including the Netherlands, Russia, and Somalia.

Wary of previous hijackings near the Somali coast, Walder said the MV Amiya Scan had not been traveling within the country's 12-mile (20-kilometer) territorial limit when it was seized.

There have been 24 attacks on ships near the Somali coast and in the Gulf of Aden this year, said Capt. Pottengal Mukundan, director of the International Maritime Bureau, which tracks pirate attacks.

Of those 24, he said, seven have been successful hijackings.

Cyrus Mody of the same bureau said that Somali pirates seem to take ships "purely for financial gain."

In the seven cases this year, most were resolved with a ransom payment, Mody said, adding that the pirates in Somalia typically treat the crews on the hijacked ships well.

Mody added there are at least four distinct pirate groups in the country and it is difficult to tell which group is responsible for which hijacking.

A draft resolution introduced to the U.N. Security Council last month would combat Somali hijackings by allowing foreign governments to pursue pirate vessels into Somalia's territorial waters and make arrests.

The resolution, sponsored by the United States, Panama, France and Britain, noted that Somalia's transitional government welcomes international assistance.

Maritime groups say they hope the resolution is adopted and expanded to other waters.

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