ANKARA, Turkey — Pirates attacked a Turkish cargo ship off the West African coast, kidnapping 15 sailors and killing one, officials said Sunday.
Turkey’s Maritime Directorate said the crew initially locked themselves in a safe area but the pirates forced entry after six hours. During the struggle, one crew member aboard the M/V Mozart died.
Turkish media identified the victim as engineer Farman Ismayilov of Azerbaijan, the only non-Turkish crew member.
After taking most of the crew on Saturday, the pirates left the ship in the Gulf of Guinea with three sailors aboard, state-run Anadolu news agency said. The vessel is currently heading to Gabon’s Port-Gentil.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has twice spoken to the senior officer remaining on the ship, Furkan Yaren, the Turkish presidency said in a tweet. It added that Erdogan issued orders for the recovery of the kidnapped crew.
“The owners and operators of the M/V Mozart, which was hijacked at gunpoint in the Gulf of Guinea, have regretfully confirmed that one of its crew has been killed and others abducted,” Istanbul-based Boden Maritime said in a statement.
The Liberian-flagged Mozart was sailing from Lagos, Nigeria, to Cape Town in South Africa when it was attacked 100 nautical miles (185 km) northwest of the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe on Saturday morning.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke to his Azerbaijani counterpart to offer condolences and said the body of the crew member would be transferred when the Mozart reaches port.
According to reports, the pirates disabled most of the ship’s systems, leaving only the navigation system for the remaining crew to find their way to port. The Maritime Traffic website showed the vessel’s location was last recorded at 16:39 GMT on Saturday.
The Gulf of Guinea, off the coasts of Nigeria, Guinea, Togo, Benin and Cameroon, is the most dangerous sea in the world for piracy, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
In July 2019, 10 Turkish seamen were kidnapped off the coast of Nigeria. They were released less than a month later.
Andrew Wilks, The Associated Press