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South Korea dispatches destroyer to rescue tanker hijacked by Somali pirates

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Yonhap/Reuters

(Read caption) A South Korean navy destroyer seen in this undated file picture released by local Yonhap news agency in Seoul April 6, 2010. A navy destroyer has been sent in response to the hijacking of the Samho Jewelry tanker by Somali pirates.

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South Korea has dispatched 300 troops and a destroyer to secure the release of a Korean-operated tanker with 21 crew members that was hijacked by Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea. The attack on the Samho Jewelry tanker follows the release of a hijacked ship owned by the same company only two months ago, and it ups the total of hostages held off the Somali coast to nearly 700.

South Korea’s 4,500-ton destroyer is sailing toward the Arabian Sea and is expected to reach the troubled waters in about two days, a Korean foreign ministry official told the Yonhap news agency.

"The location of the ship was found and the 21 crew members, including eight South Koreans, were all confirmed to be safe through communications between Samho Shipping Co. and the ship," an unnamed government official said.

The 19,000-ton Samho Jewelry is Maltese-flagged and Norwegian-owned, with a crew from Indonesia, Myanmar, and Korea, according to the European Union's Operation Atalanta, a naval force formed to combat Somali piracy.

The ship was carrying chemicals between the United Arab Emirates and Sri Lanka. The hijacking is the second in just one week of a ship leaving UAE ports, the UAE-based National newspaper reports.

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