Pirates seize two Americans off ship near Nigerian coast
Armed pirates stormed a U.S. flagged ship off the coast of Nigeria early Wednesday morning, kidnapping the American Captain and Chief Engineer, U.S. officials confirmed to ABC News.
The men are now on land, according to a Defense Department official, and the FBI in New York, which deals with Africa cases, is handling the investigation. A U.S. government official briefed on the situation said the American government is treating the case as a potential kidnapping-for-ransom and not a politically-motivated act.
The Americans were taken off the U.S.-flagged C-Retriever, a 222-foot vessel owned by U.S. marine transport group Edison Chouest Offshore that is an oil supply vessel.
The kidnapping was first reported by gCaptain.com, a maritime industry news website.
While globally piracy was down last year to its lowest levels in seven years, cases in Nigeria are on the rise. According to the International Maritime Bureau, pirate attacks off Nigeria's coast have jumped by a third this year -- allegedly perpetrated by criminal gangs who are looking for cargo ships with commodities, and seeking ransom for hostages.
Kidnapping for ransom has been a growing issue in Nigeria for several years. In 2006 ABC News interviewed an American, Texas Richards, who had been kidnapped by Nigerians and freed.
In 2009, on the other side of Africa, American Capt. Richard Phillips was held hostage on the Indian Ocean by a group of Somali pirates for five days before he was freed in a daring rescue by U.S. Navy SEALs. Hollywood recreated that ordeal in a recent blockbuster film starring Tom Hanks as Capt. Phillips.
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