Malaysia recapture oil tanker, pirates flee

Kuala Lumpur, June 19 (IANS) Malaysian authorities recaptured a hijacked oil tanker and the crew onboard was safe after the pirates abandoned the vessel, a naval officer said on Friday.

“All eight hijackers fled in rescue boats on Thursday evening, but the captain of the hijacked tanker informed the authorities after midnight, some five hours later as he was threatened by the pirates not to reveal their escape plan,” the Malaysian Navy chief, Admiral Abdul Aziz Jaafar said.

Earlier, the pirates requested the Malaysian Navy ship following them to keep a five nautical-mile distance, threatening the crew would be hurt if the ship got too close. The pirates said they were heading toward Natuna Islands of Indonesia, Xinhua news agency reported.

All 22 crew members, including 16 Malaysians, five Indonesians and a Myanmar citizen were safe, Abdul Aziz said. One crew member was shot in the thigh when the pirates hijacked the ship, and was airlifted to a hospital.

The ship, “Orkim Harmony”, went missing off the east coast of Malaysia’s southern Johor state on June 11. It was carrying 6,000 metric tonnes of petrol worth $5.6 million.

Abdul Aziz said the pirates did not take the petrol.

He added that Malaysia started to pursue the pirates, with the assistance of a surveillance plane of Australia. Malaysia has also requested assistance from Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.

The tanker was on its way from Malacca to the port city of Kuantan when it was hijacked. It was spotted on Thursday off Cambodian waters.

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