BRUSSELS - Pirates hijacked a German cargo ship north of the Seychelles in an attack over the weekend, the EU's naval mission confirmed Wednesday, as the nearest Navfor vessel was too far away to help.
"After four days of uncertainty regarding the exact status of the crew, MV Beluga Nomination is now believed" to have been captured by pirates, the EU Navfor mission said in a statement on the hijacking.
An unknown number of pirates travelling on a skiff and bearing small arms attacked the German-owned and Antiguan and Barbudan flagged, on Saturday in the Indian Ocean, the statement added.
The attack took place 390 nautical miles north of the Seychelles as the vessels was sailing for Port Victoria.
The 12 sailors on board -- Polish, Filipino, Russian and Ukrainian -- had retreated into a citadel as soon as the pirates boarded but the assailants "were eventually able to enter".
A spokesman for EU Navfor told AFP: "All vessels have been asked to install citadels with communications equipment, enabling crew to talk to us and to wait for a military intervention."
In this case however the nearest EU Navfor warship was more than 1,000 nautical miles away waiting to escort a World Food Programme (WFP) ship delivering vital aid to Somalia, which is the mission's main task.
Navfor said it had no information on the condition of the crew but was monitoring the situation.
The use of a citadel does not guarantee a military response, but "communication is crucial because it gives us guidance," the Navfor spokesman added.
"It is important that the whole crew goes into the citadel otherwise pirates can take prisoners."