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EU maritime force says it is shadowing a Bangladesh-flagged ship seized by pirates off Somali coast

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — The 23 crew members of a Bangladesh-flagged cargo ship boarded by pirates off Somalia this week have been taken hostage, and a European Union vessel is tracking the ship as it heads toward the coast, the EU's maritime security force said Wednesday.

The hijacking of the MV Abdullah, first reported Tuesday by the British military, took place nearly 700 miles (1,100 kilometers) east of Somalia’s coastal capital Mogadishu.

An EU ship deployed as part of Operation ATALANTA is “shadowing” the cargo carrier, the EU force said in a statement.

“The situation on board is that pirates have seized and taken its 23-member crew hostage,” the statement said. “The crew is safe, and the action is still ongoing. The ship is sailing towards the Somali coast."

Twenty armed assailants took control of the vessel while it was going from the Mozambique capital Maputo to Hamriya in the United Arab Emirates, according to Ambrey, a British maritime security company.

The ship is owned by Bangladeshi company SR Shipping Lines, a sister concern of Chattogram-based Kabir Steel and Rerolling Mill Group, company media advisor Mizanul Islam told local media in Bangladesh.

Once-rampant piracy off the Somali coast diminished after a peak in 2011, but concerns about new attacks have grown in recent months.

In December, at least two incidents were reported. One involved a trading vessel seized by heavily armed people near the town of Eyl off the coast of Somalia. The other involved a Maltese-flagged merchant vessel that was hijacked in the Arabian Sea last and moved to the same area off Somalia’s coast.

The waters off Somalia saw a peak in piracy in 2011 when the U.N. said more than 160 attacks were recorded. The incidents declined drastically afterward, largely due to the presence of American and allied navies in international waters.