Four ships robbed off Iraqi coast: US Navy

The four commercial ships were anchored near the southern oil hub of Basra.

Last Updated: Aug 16, 2010, 09:22 AM IST

Baghdad: Gunmen robbed four commercial ships anchored near the southern oil hub of Basra in a rare attack off the Iraqi coast, the US Navy said.

Two men armed with AK-47 rifles boarded the American ship Sagamore in the vicinity of an Iraqi oil terminal in the northern Persian Gulf at 4 am on August 08, taking computers, cell phones and money from crew members before fleeing the vessel after about 40 minutes on board, according to Lt John Fage, a spokesman for the Navy`s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain.

He said three other ships, the Antigua-flagged Armenia, the North Korean Crystal Wave and the Syrian Sana Star were also robbed under similar circumstances during a two-hour period starting about 2 am the same day.

Fage said he had no other information about the attackers or their nationalities.

Salah Aboud, head of the country`s ports agency, said two Iraqis were arrested after Iraqi naval forces found a boat holding some of the stolen materials during a search of a nearby area.

The seaborne robbery occurred about 20 miles (32 kilometres) off the port of Umm Qasr in an area patrolled jointly by the US Navy and Iraqi sailors.

American vessels in the area for routine security operations, including a guided missile destroyer, responded to the attacks, Fage said.

The attack reflects concerns about an increase in crime in Iraq even as political violence ebbs, but Fage played down concerns it signalled a new threat to commercial traffic in the Gulf.

PTI