Twenty-four Indians have been taken hostage in a hijacking of a Panamanian-flagged ship near Seychelles. Pirates seized the 22,000 tonne bulk carrier, managed by an Indian crew, 180 nautical miles west of Seychelles. Six pirates are believed to be on board mv Al Khaliq, which had 26 crew members.

NATO’s closest ship in the Somali basin was eight hours away from Al Khaliq when it was stormed.

Pirates also fired at Jolly Rosso, an Italian ship, which was sailing north of Seychelles. The 32,000 tonne carrier, however, managed to escape.

Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur, said the ship was attacked with automatic weapons. The hijacking showed that pirates were now attacking ships far away from the coast during clear weather.

The hijacking of Al Khaliq is the third such incident that took place recently.

A Singapore-flagged bulk container was seized last Thursday and a Chinese cargo ship was pirated on Monday. The attack on Al Khaliq takes the number of sea-jacking incidents off-the coast of Somalia in the first nine months of 2009 to 47.