Four persons, including two soldiers, were killed when a ship belonging to an Indian company was attacked by pirates in Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta.

The four persons killed, included two soldiers, a retired naval officer and the pilot of the tugboat which ran into an ambush on Tuesday after setting sail from Warri in Delta State to Port Harcourt in Rivers State.

A gun battle between men of the Joint Task Force (JTF) and pirates in Bayelsa State ensued during the ambush.

The ship belongs to Sterling Global Services Limited, a venture of an Indian-based company called the Sandesara Group.

“The military men escorting Sterling Global Oil Resources Limited tugboat ran into an ambush mounted by suspected sea pirates along the Angiama-Etelibiri waterways of Sagbama Local Government area of Bayelsa state,” Lt. Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, spokesman for the Joint Task Force (JTF), a military unit that polices the region against piracy, told PTI.

Mr. Nwachukwu said two soldiers were killed but failed to confirm the death of the retired soldier and the ship captain and said three pirates were also wounded by soldiers who returned fire. One inmate of the ship was also missing while two other soldiers sustained serious injuries during the shootout that followed, he said.

Nwachukwu could not give any reason for the attack because the boat and the escorting vessels were empty. According to him, the military has sent five gunboats to nab the pirates and security has been heightened in Bayelsa state where the incident took place.

Two months ago, five Indians were abducted by heavily armed pirates who attacked the vessel, Medallion Marine, in which they were travelling about 60 kilometres off the coast of oil rich Niger Delta and commercial capital, Lagos. They were released after a month.

Attack on ships is common in Nigeria’s oil rich region and in most cases the purpose was kidnapping for ransom, while in some cases oil theft was the motive.

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