A sailor, an Azerbaijani national, was killed in the raid, while the kidnapped were from Turkey, according to the governments concerned and the crew list seen by Reuters.
Accounts from the ship’s crew, family members, and security sources described a complex and well-organized attack in which armed pirates boarded the ship and breached its defensive castle, possibly with explosives.
Three sailors still on board the Mozart ship which was receiving aid by Sunday evening in Gabon waters off central Africa.
“The ship is in our waters and our sailors are helping a few nautical miles from the port of Gentil,” said Gabonese presidential spokesman Jesse Ella Ikoga, without providing further details.
Naval reports showed the ship flying the Liberian flag was bound for Cape Town from Lagos when it was attacked in the Gulf of Guinea, 160 km (100 miles) off the island of Sao Tome on Saturday.
The state-run Anatolia News Agency reported that the fourth captain of the vessel Furkan Yarin was “sailing blindly” towards Gabon with damage to the ship’s controls and radar operation only. Yarin said the pirates beat the crew, leaving him injured in the leg while another on the ship was injured by shrapnel.
Turkish media quoted the Istanbul-based company, Boden, as saying that the ship’s owners and operators were kidnapped at gunpoint. Boden was not immediately available.
Ambry, the security company, said four armed men climbed into Mozart and entered the castle – where the crew is advised to hide in any attack – from a rooftop above the cabin.
Edward Yebo, commander of the Nigerian Navy, said he was not aware of the attack and was seeking details. The Lagos Maritime Command office and a spokesperson for the Nigerian Maritime Regulatory Authority were not immediately available.
According to a report issued by the International Maritime Bureau, pirates in the Gulf, which borders more than 12 countries, kidnapped 130 sailors in 22 accidents last year, which represents all but five of those kidnapped around the world.
Analysts said the attack on Mozart could increase international pressure on Nigeria to do more to protect shippers, who have called for tougher measures in recent weeks.
“The fact that one person has died, the number of people who have been captured, and the apparent use of explosives to breach a ship’s castle means it could change the rules of the game,” said David Johnson, chief executive of UK-based EOS Risk Group.
“It is clearly very complicated, and if the pirates decide to use ammunition, that is a big step,” he said. He added that there was “no doubt” that the kidnapped would be returned to the Nigerian delta, and Turkey would have little hope of stopping it.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said that the pirates had not had any contact with Ankara.
Sit Kaya, 42-year-old brother of the ship’s captain, Mustafa Kaya, who is a father of two, said in an interview that he was waiting for details from the ship’s owner about any possible ransom.
“Since there are many attacks in this area, they are taking pirate warnings,” said Kaya, who is also a sailor.