German ship hijacked by pirates off Somalia

German ship hijacked by pirates off SomaliaBerlin  - A German-flagged cargo ship was hijacked by pirates near the Somali coast, two German government ministries said Sunday in Berlin.

The Spiegel Online website in Germany quoted Andrew Mwangura, coordinator of the East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme, as saying it was a 20,000-gross-ton vessel. He did not name the vessel but said it had a crew of 24.

Described in one news report as a container vessel, the ship was seized about 400 nautical miles (about 750 kilometres) off the southern Somali port of Kismayo, between the Seychelles and Kenya, Spiegel Online reported.

"We have to assume that German citizens are on board," a German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman sain late Sunday in Berlin.

She said that the government had formed a task force to manage the crisis.

A Defence Ministry spokesman in Berlin confirmed there had been a hijacking.

Several German vessels have been captured on the coast and only freed after ransom payments. A week ago, German Navy units in the area thwarted an attempted pirate attack on a navy oiler in the Gulf of Aden and detained seven would-be pirates. (dpa)