MOGADISHU: Somali pirates today captured a Greek cargo ship off the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Seychelles, where the hijackers have ramped up attacks on vessels in recent weeks.

The Filitsa was on its way to South Africa from Kuwait when it came under attack, a Kenyan maritime official and the EU said. The hijackers used three speed boats to launch the attack, said Abdi Yare, a pirate in Harardhere, a village in northern Somalia and a safe haven for the sea bandits. The Filitsa’s crew include 19 Filipinos and three Greeks. The ship was seized 400 kilometres off the Seychelles, the EU naval mission said.

The Marshall Islands-flagged Filitsa, which was heading for Durban when it was hijacked, has been turned round and is currently moving north, the EU’s Atalanta mission said. The vessel was ferrying urea to Durban.

Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme said there were reports that a fishing vessel was captured early Wednesday in the Indian Ocean waters near the lawless Horn of Africa country, but its identity was still unclear. Since last month, Somali pirates have gone on the rampage in the Indian Ocean with calm waters at the end of the monsoon season enabling them to launch attacks as far as 1,000 nautical miles from the capital Mogadishu.

Last year, Western nations deployed a flotilla of warships to secure the Gulf of Aden as a surge in piracy threatened a key maritime route. This has since seen the pirates switch to the Indian Ocean. Yesterday, the Seychelles and the European Union signed an agreement authorising EU naval forces to hunt and detain Somali pirates.