Asia

Pirates raid oil tanker in Malacca Straits

File photo: Ships anchored off Singapore's coastline Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ships from across the region use the Malacca Straits, which lie between western Malaysia and Indonesia

Armed pirates have raided an oil tanker sailing in the Malacca Straits and abducted three crew members, officials in Malaysia say.

The pirates also pilfered a large amount of diesel from the tanker, which reports say was travelling from Singapore to Myanmar.

Three Indonesian crew members were seized, officials said.

The Malacca Straits, which run between Malaysia and Indonesia, are a key shipping route in the region.

The raid happened early on Tuesday, Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau's (IMB) piracy reporting centre based in Kuala Lumpur, was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

"IMB is aware of the attack on the Singapore-managed ship in the Malacca Straits," he said, adding that IMB was concerned about the kidnapped crew.

Reports say that armed men boarded the ship and tied up crew members, including nationals from Thailand, India, Indonesia and Myanmar, also known as Burma.

A Malaysian marine police commander, Abdul Rahim Abdullah, told the Associated Press that after the pirates boarded, two other tankers appeared.

An estimated three million litres of diesel, out of five million litres on board, were transferred to them over several hours, he said.

Earlier reports identified the tanker as Japanese, but Mr Abdul Rahim said the ship had been sold to a company in Singapore.

The tanker, identified by Reuters news agency as the Naniwa Maru, is now berthed in Malaysia for investigation.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have worked to reduce piracy in the Malacca Straits through increased patrols.

Attacks on ships had averaged up to 20 cases a year over the last three years, a regional authority on piracy was quoted by Reuters as saying.

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