Turkish officials say there has been no response from pirates who kidnapped 15 crew members after killing one and leaving three others to sail M/V Mozart off the coast of Nigeria.

Map shows the location of a Turkish cargo ship that was attacked by pirates off Nigeria's coast.
Map shows the location of a Turkish cargo ship that was attacked by pirates off Nigeria's coast. (TRTWorld)

A cargo ship with a largely Turkish crew that was attacked off Nigeria is now anchored off neighbouring Gabon, and the body of a slain Azerbaijani sailor has been brought to shore, according to Turkish officials.

The Liberian-flagged cargo ship Mozart anchored at Port-Gentil at 11 am (0800GMT), said Turkish Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoglu on Twitter on Sunday.

Armed men killed one sailor and abducted 15 from Turkish M/V Mozart off the coast of Nigeria on Saturday, leaving three crew members to sail the ship. 

Turkish Ambassador to Gabon Nilufer Erdem Kaygisiz met with the remaining sailors of the ship. 

She said the procedures for the transfer of the slain Azerbaijani crew member are under way. 

Crew showed resistance on board 

En route from Lagos, Nigeria to Cape Town, South Africa, Mozart was attacked in the Gulf of Guinea, 160 kilometres off the small island nation of Sao Tome.

Accounts from crew, family members and security sources described a sophisticated and well-orchestrated attack in which armed pirates boarded the ship and breached its protective citadel, possibly with explosives.

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.

Turkish news channel NTV spoke to a sailor still on board who said several crew members were wounded.

"I do not know where I am heading," said a voice on a recording posted on Twitter and purported to be the latest captain of the Mozart.

"The pirates cut the cables, only the radar is working," he said. 

No response from pirates on kidnapped 

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone to the new captain and was following events closely, his office said.

Erdogan has twice spoken to the senior officer remaining on the Mozart, Furkan Yaren, his office said in a tweet. It added that Erdogan issued orders for the recovery of the kidnapped crew.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, said he had spoken to 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."

"There have been attacks on our ships and other countries' ships before. They call after a certain time and make their demands. But all kinds of preparation and work have been done," Cavusoglu added.

Cavusoglu spoke to his Azerbaijani counterpart to offer condolences and said the body would be transferred soon. 

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Most dangerous sea for piracy 

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.

Ten sailors who were taken hostage from a Turkish vessel off West Africa were released in August 2019.

Pirate attacks on ships worldwide jumped 20 percent last year driven by a record spate of kidnappings off West Africa, the Bureau said last week.

A total of 195 incidents of piracy and armed robbery were reported, up from 162 in 2019.

Out of 135 sailors abducted globally last year, 130 were recorded in the Gulf of Guinea, the highest number of crew members kidnapped in the area stretching thousands of kilometres from Senegal to Angola.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies