Filipino, not Chinese, sailors kidnapped off Cameroon – document

DOUALA, Cameroon (UPDATED) – Most of the sailors kidnapped off the Cameroon coast last week were Filipinos, not Chinese as first reported, according to an official document seen by Agence France-Presse on Sunday, August 18.

On Friday, August 16, an official in the port of Douala told Agence France-Presse that 17 crew had been abducted, including "9 Chinese civilian sailors" from one of the two ships attacked, along with Ukrainians.

The attacks took place on Thursday, August 15, in Cameroonian waters off Douala, located at the apex of a gulf that has become a hotspot of seaborne crime.

The port document said instead that "9 hostages, all Filipinos," were seized from a Greek-owned ship while "8 (3 Russians, 4 Filipinos and a Ukrainian)" were taken from a German-owned vessel.

Noel Choong, head of the information service of the International Maritime Bureau based in Kuala Lumpur, confirmed the figures but said he could not be sure of the nationalities on the second ship.

"The IMB has issued a warning to all ships at Douala. We ask all ships to take additional precautions," Choong said Friday.

In a statement Monday night, August 19, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it was "closely monitoring" the kidnapping of the Filipino seamen.

The DFA added that the Philippine Embassy in Abuja, which has jurisdiction over Cameroon, was also verifying the report and was ordered to coordinate with authorities to ensure the safety of the Filipinos

In Moscow, press reports citing the foreign ministry said 3 of the victims were Russian.

The Gulf of Guinea, whose coastline stretches in a huge arc from Liberia to Gabon, is notorious for piracy as well as oil theft, illegal fishing and human and drugs trafficking. – with a report from Sofia Tomacruz/Rappler.com