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Presumed pirates take fishing boat off Somalia

  • Story Highlights
  • Spanish fishing boat hijacked off coast, Spanish Foreign Ministry official said
  • No reports of injuries to 26 crew members; ship was damaged, official said
  • Earlier this month, more than a dozen pirates seized a French yacht
  • U.S. and NATO warships patrol off the Horn of Africa to crack down on piracy
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From Al Goodman
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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Another vessel has been hijacked off the coast of Somalia, this time a Spanish tuna fishing boat, a senior Spanish Foreign Ministry official told CNN on Sunday.

"We presume pirates," the official said, but said he could not confirm news reports that four pirates were involved in the assault.

An official ministry statement on the incident didn't use the term "pirates."

A crew member on the ship, called "Playa de Bakio," called in the incident to the Spanish government's maritime office about 3 p.m. Sunday. The contact was brief, said the official, who asked not to be identified.

There were no immediate reports of injuries to the 26 crew members, half of whom are Spanish, but the ship was damaged, the official said.

A similar incident occurred earlier this month, when more than a dozen pirates seized a French yacht April 4 off the Somali coast, holding its 30-member crew hostage for a week. No passengers were on board.

The hostages were freed, and six of the dozen or so pirates believed to have been involved are in French custody after a raid in the Somali desert.

U.S. and NATO warships have been patrolling off the Horn of Africa for several years in an effort to crack down on piracy off long-lawless Somalia, where a U.N.-backed transitional government and Ethiopian troops are now battling Islamist insurgents. The seizures have continued despite several run-ins between the pirates and the international fleet in recent months.

The incident with the Spanish ship occurred in an area known as "Somali waters," but the ship's distance from the Somali coast was not immediately known, the official said. It is an area where Spanish tuna boats typically fish, he added.

The statement said the Defense Ministry is sending a nearby ship to the scene of the hijacking. The Foreign Ministry has contacted local authorities and allied nations with a presence in the area. The closest Spanish embassy is in Kenya, which also is responsible for Somalia, the statement said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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