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China warns its ships to steer clear of pirate danger zone

RIA Novosti

10:53 21/10/2009 MOSCOW, October 21 (RIA Novosti) - China's transport ministry has issued a warning for the country's ships to avoid the area of the Indian Ocean where a bulk carrier was hijacked two days ago.

The De Xin Hai cargo ship was seized by Somali pirates with 25 crew on board, around 700 miles (1,100 kilometers) from Somalia's coast.

The ministry said in a statement: "Chinese ships must urgently steer as far away from the area as possible. Ships within the region must exercise caution and increase their vigilance."

The ship owned by China Cosco Holding was carrying about 76,000 metric tons of coal from South Africa to India's western Mundra port.

The bulk carrier was spotted on Monday by an EU maritime patrol aircraft. According to the China Daily, the vessel is heading in a northwesterly direction, and four pirates are on the deck.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu earlier said the country would "make every effort" to free the crew, and that the government had launched an "emergency response procedure".

On Tuesday, one of the pirates was quoted by Chinese media as saying the vessel's crew would be killed if Chinese authorities launched a rescue operation.

Around 35 warships from the navies of 16 countries are currently deployed off Somalia's coast to counter frequent pirate attacks on key trade routes.

Pirate attacks on commercial vessels in the Gulf of Aden and off the east coast of Somalia have amounted to 148 since the beginning of the year, with over 40 ships captured and at least 270 taken hostage.

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