Ship with Turkish crew at port in Gabon after pirate attack off Nigeria

Turkey sought on Jan. 24 to rescue surviving members of a container ship after pirates attacked it off the coast of Nigeria, killing one person and kidnapping 15. The ship is anchored off neighboring Gabon, Turkish officials said.

Duvar English

A cargo ship with a largely Turkish crew that was attacked off Nigeria on Jan. 23 is now anchored off neighboring Gabon, and the body of a slain Azerbaijani sailor is due to be brought to shore, according to Turkish officials.

The Liberian-flagged cargo ship Mozart anchored at Port-Gentil at 11 a.m. (0800GMT), said Turkish Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoğlu on Twitter on Jan. 24.

In the pirate attack, out of 19 or 20 crew members, 15 were kidnapped and three remained with the pirates – both groups all apparently Turkish nationals – while one Azerbaijani crew member was killed. It is unclear how many surviving crew members may still be on the cargo ship.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Turkish Ambassador to Gabon Nilüfer Erdem Kaygısız said procedures for the transfer of the slain Azerbaijani crew member will be done quickly.

"First of all, we need to … get there, see the crew,” and then retrieve the body, she added.

En route from Lagos, Nigeria to Cape Town, South Africa, the Mozart was attacked in the Gulf of Guinea, 160 kilometers (100 miles) off the small island nation of Sao Tome.

Turkish media cited Istanbul-based ship owner Boden company as saying the owners and operators of the vessel were abducted at gunpoint. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke twice by phone with one of the captains who remained on the ship, Furkan Yaren, his office said, adding he directed officials on the rescue mission for the other kidnapped personnel.

Anadolu cited Yaren as saying he was "cruising blindly" toward Gabon with only the ship's radar working. Yaren was also cited as saying the pirates beat crew members and left him with an injured leg while another still aboard the ship had shrapnel wounds.

Azerbaijan’s foreign minister, Jeyhun Bayramov, confirmed on Twitter the death of the Azeri crew member in the “pirate attack” on the Turkish ship.

The vessel last reported its location about 200 kilometres (125 miles) south of Lagos, according to MarineTraffic website. It was to have arrived in South Africa a week later.

Diplomatic efforts launched 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also talked to Yaren, as well as Osman Levent Karsan, the operator of the company that owns the ship. He conveyed his condolences, emphasizing that necessary actions will be taken to rescue the crew as soon as possible and return them safely.

“These thugs, pirates who kidnapped our citizens have not yet contacted us,” Çavuşoğlu told broadcaster NTV.

"There have been attacks on our ships and other countries' ships before. They call after a certain time and make their demands. But all kinds of preparation and work have been done," he added. 

Çavuşoğlu also had a telephone call with his Azerbaijani counterpart Bayramov and expressed his condolences for the crew member who was killed in the attack.

“The necessary funeral procedures will be carried out,” he said.

Turkish embassies in surrounding countries, including Nigeria, have been mobilized for the crew.

A tape recording had been shared on Twitter and believed to be belonging to the captain of the ship says: "I don't know where I'm going. The pirates dismantled all cables, nothing is working. Only the navigator works. They gave me a route, I'm moving accordingly."