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Pirates seize Greek ship off Seychelles

Dutch sailors patrol for pirates off the coast of Somalia earlier this year.
Dutch sailors patrol for pirates off the coast of Somalia earlier this year.
  • 22 crew aboard Greek-owned bulk carrier MV Filitsa
  • Ship changed directions, now heading north European Union Naval Force says
  • More than 100 pirate attacks off East Africa this year
  • Pirates
  • Somalia
  • Yachting

(CNN) -- Suspected Somali pirates hijacked a Greek-owned bulk carrier Wednesday with 22 crew members aboard, according to the European Union's Naval Force for Somalia.

MV Filitsa was seized in the early morning about 460 miles (740 kilometers) northeast of the Seychelles as it headed toward Durban, South Africa, according to a news release from EU NAVFOR Somalia.

The Marshall Island-flagged carrier -- with three Greek and 19 Filipino crew members -- "has now turned around and is heading north," it said. The bulk carrier has a deadweight of more than 23,000 tons.

There have been more than 100 pirate attacks and at least 39 hijackings off the east Africa this year, according to EU NAVFOR.

In late October, Somali pirates seized a private yacht in the Indian Ocean, taking Paul and Rachel Chandler hostage. They have demanded a $7 million ransom for the British couple's release, but the government has refused to pay as a matter of long-standing policy.

Two vessels were attacked the day after the Chandlers set sail. One of them -- a cargo ship -- was successfully boarded and seized off the Seychelles, while the other fought off its attackers near the Kenyan coast.

Pirates are still holding a Spanish fishing boat, the Alakrana, which they seized on October 2 off Somalia's coast. Days later, they transferred three of the fishing boat's 36 crew members to land.

Two pirate suspects had left the Alakrana in a small vessel heading toward land, authorities said, and the Spanish military swooped in to stop them on the high seas. They were later brought to Madrid, where a judge has charged them with piracy and kidnapping.

The pirates holding the crew have demanded Spain release the two suspects.

Spain is part of the European Union task force against piracy in the Indian Ocean off Somalia. The Spanish parliament last January agreed to increase Spain's presence with up to 395 troops and assets, including a frigate and aircraft.

CNN's Al Goodman contributed to this report