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Benin authorities open investigation after nine people abducted by pirates

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By Reuters

COTONOU, Benin (Reuters) – Benin authorities have opened an investigation after pirates abducted nine people from a Norwegian-flagged boat off the coast of the West African nation, the port of Cotonou said.

The pirates boarded the vessel, which is owned by Norwegian shipping firm J.J. Ugland, while it was at anchor on Saturday off the coast. All those on board were Filipinos, the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association said.

After the attack, the Norwegian-flagged MV Bonita docked in Cotonou and police started interviewing the remaining crew on board, the port said on its official Facebook page late on Sunday.

“At this moment, the investigation is continuing,” the statement said. “In the meantime, surveillance has been further strengthened.”

J.J. Ugland said in a statement on Monday that the captain of the vessel was among the nine crew abducted, adding: “We are continuously working on the situation, and are doing our utmost to bring the nine crewmembers to safety.”

It said the remaining crewmembers were being cared for and were in a good condition.

While piracy has decreased worldwide, West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea is a high-risk area for abductions and armed robbery, the International Maritime Bureau, a unit of the International Chamber of Commerce, said last month.

Shippers have reported several abductions in the region in recent months, including eight crew members taken from a German-owned vessel off Cameroon in August, and 10 Turkish sailors off the coast of Nigeria in July.

(Reporting by Allegresse Sassein Cotonou, additional reporting by Terje Solsvik in Oslo, writing by Anna Pujol-Mazzini, editing by Gareth Jones)