17 Chinese, Ukrainian seamen kidnapped off Cameroon

The Gulf of Guinea is notorious for piracy, but nations in the region have limited surveillance and maritime defense capabilities. (AFP)
Updated 16 August 2019
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17 Chinese, Ukrainian seamen kidnapped off Cameroon

  • A navy source said the kidnappers are probably Nigerian pirates, adding that Cameroon’s security forces had launched a search for them
  • 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

YAOUNDÉ: Nine Chinese and eight Ukrainian seamen were abducted on Thursday when two merchant vessels came under attack in Cameroonian waters, sources said Friday.
“Seventeen Chinese and Ukrainians were kidnapped... (of whom) nine (are) Chinese who were abducted on one of the ships,” an official in the port of Douala told AFP.
A Cameroonian security official, likewise speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the account.
The abduction was reported on Thursday by sources in the Cameroonian navy and the country’s port service, but their number and nationality were not then known.
The navy source had said the kidnappers “are probably Nigerian pirates,” adding that Cameroon’s security forces had launched a search for them.
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.
In Malaysia, Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), a watchdog agency, said the 17 seamen were seized from two ships that were attacked within hours of each other while they were anchored off Douala.
Choong said one of the ships was a multipurpose German-owned ship that flew the flag of Antigua and Barbuda.
“Eight crew were kidnapped from the ship consisting of a total of 12 Asian and European sailors,” he said.
The other vessel was a Liberian-flagged bulk carrier managed in Greece with a Greek owner.
“There were 21 crew on board. All were Asians. Nine crew were taken,” Choong told AFP.
“(The) IMB has issued a warning to all ships at Douala. We ask all ships to take additional precaution.”
According to the IMB’s figures, 62 seafarers were taken hostage or abducted in the area in the first half of 2019.
The Gulf of Guinea accounts for 73 percent of kidnappings and 92 percent of hostage-takings at sea worldwide, it says.
The 17 countries in the Gulf of Guinea and adjacent regions have limited surveillance and maritime defense capabilities.
They have been trying for several years to bolster their means of intervention and to put in place closer collaboration.


Poor air quality: Malaysia tells citizens to stay indoors

Updated 15 min 15 sec ago

Poor air quality: Malaysia tells citizens to stay indoors

  • Nearly 1,500 schools closed as haze continues to plague the country

KUALA LUMPUR: As Malaysia’s haze problem worsened on Wednesday, some areas of the country recorded readings above 200 on the Air Pollution Index (API), which officials told Arab News is considered “very unhealthy.”

More than a million primary and high-school students stayed home as 1,484 schools remained closed in seven states, including Selangor and Sarawak — the two worst-affected states. 

In some areas of Sarawak, API readings were above 300, which is considered hazardous to the environment and human health. 

The Ministry of Education advised all higher education institutions in the haze-affected states to postpone their classes, while some companies and institutions, including the Ministry of Youth and Sports, asked employees to work from home.

Responding to the worsening situation, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Muhamad stressed that Malaysia must deal with the haze issue on its own.

“We will have to find ways to deal with the haze, through cloud seeding, asking people to stay at home, and school closures,” he said at a press conference in Putrajaya. 

The Malaysia government also stressed that it will take legal action against Malaysian companies that own estates and plantations outside Malaysia which have contributed to the problem. 

“We will ask them to put out the fires (they have set). If they are unwilling to take action, we may have to pass a law that holds them responsible,” the 93-year-old Malaysian leader said.

The ASEAN Specialized Meteorological Centre reported that forest fires in Indonesia’s Sumatera and Kalimantan regions have intensified, leading to an increase in the haze across the Southeast Asian region. Those fires, coupled with the dry weather conditions in certain areas, mean the air quality is expected to continue to deteriorate. The general public have been advised to stay indoors and to wear facemasks if they do have to go outside.

Benjamin Ong, a Kuala Lumpur-based environmentalist told Arab News that many Malaysians are concerned about the ongoing and worsening issue of haze, which has become an annual occurrence despite efforts by Malaysia, Indonesia and other Southeast-Asian governments to tackle the transboundary problem. 

“Outdoor activities are badly affected, including environmental activities like hiking and outdoor classes for kids,” Ong said, adding that many families are especially concerned about the pollution’s impact on their children’s education.

“The haze has been hanging around for at least 20 years, but the root causes have never been systematically tackled,” he added. “Distribution of masks, school closures and cloud seeding are only treating the symptoms, so to speak, and do not in any way make society more resilient to haze if and when it returns.”