(Adds statement by Transport Malta)

Somali pirates have seized a Maltese-registered, Turkish ship with a crew of 21 -- 19 Turks and two Ukrainians -- Turkish broadcasters said today.

The ship, MV Frigia was hijacked off the Indian coast, news channels said.

"My men have hijacked a Turkish ship from Indian Ocean and they are now heading towards me here in Haradheere," a pirate only known as Ali, told Reuters.

No further details were immediately available.

Turkish ships have been hijacked in the past and NATO member Turkey's warships patrol the Gulf of Aden under an international mission to try to prevent attacks.

Piracy has surged off the Somali coast in recent years despite the presence of foreign navies patrolling the area.

Malta has announced plans to send a team of AFM soldiers on a Dutch ship to help in anti-piracy operations off Somalia.


Transport Malta said in a statement its Merchant Shipping Directorate was liaising with various international authorities following the hijacking of Frigia.

The Turkish-managed ship, which has a gross tonnage of 20,352 gross tonnage was carrying fertiliser to Thailand. It was attacked and seized by pirates in the middle of the Indian ocean, about 900 miles off the coast of Somalia at around 2.30 a.m.

Transport Malta said the latest reports indicated that the crew were safe and unharmed and the vessel was now heading towards an undisclosed location within Somalia.

The directorate said it was informed of the attack early thismorning by the Rescue Coordination Centre of the Armed Forces of Malta. RCC Malta forms part of a worldwide search and rescue network which was part of the global maritime distress safety system.

The directorate wasin close contact with the managers of the vessel, the International Maritime Organisation and, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) which monitored piracy and armed robbery on merchant shipping.

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