Pirates kidnap three on Japanese tanker off Malaysia: Report

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Armed pirates boarded a Japanese oil tanker in the Strait of Malacca, kidnapping three Indonesian crew and stealing some of the vessel's shipment of diesel fuel, Malaysian media said on Wednesday.

The attack occurred early Tuesday about 16 nautical miles off Malaysia's west coast, The Star quoted Malaysian authorities saying.

"The incident occurred at about 1am (1500 GMT) and it was only realised by the crew members when they saw about five or six men armed with a pistol and a (machete) aboard the ship," Norzaid Muhammad Said, police commander of nearby Port Klang, was quoted saying.

The report said the pirates subdued and tied up the crew, robbed the vessel and brought in two other tankers that pumped out a large quantity of the Japanese vessel's diesel.

After the attackers fled several hours later, the crew discovered three shipmates were missing.

Police suspect they were kidnapped by the pirates, the report said.

The crew comprised Indonesian, Thai, Myanmar and Indian nationals.

No further details on the vessel were provided.

A separate report by the New Straits Times said no one was hurt in the incident.

The Strait of Malacca is a key highway for sea traffic between and Asia, Europe and the Middle East, and has long been a hunting ground for pirates due to the large numbers of cargo and other vessels passing through.