Pirates rob Japanese tanker in Malacca Strait

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Pirates raided a Japanese tanker in the Malacca Strait and pilfered several million liters of diesel fuel it was carrying, Malaysian marine police said Wednesday.

A marine police officer said the tanker was sailing from Singapore to Myanmar when it was boarded by pirates armed with pistols and machetes early Tuesday. He said most of the crew members were tied up and locked in a room.

The officer, who declined to be named as he is not authorized to speak to the media, said another tanker appeared and an estimated 3 million liters, of the 5 million liters of diesel on board the Japanese ship, were transferred over a span of several hours.

He said three Indonesian crew members were missing along with their passports and belongings.

The Star newspaper quoted senior marine police commander Norzaid Muhammad Said as saying the ship was intercepted off Klang port, outside Kuala Lumpur. Norzaid told the newspaper the three Indonesians were believed to have been kidnapped.

He said the ship was now anchored at Klang port and that an investigation was ongoing. Norzaid could not be reached for comment.

The narrow Malacca Strait, shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, is a major shipping route for oil as it is the shortest sea route between the Middle East and Asia. One-third of the world's shipping trade goes through it.

Piracy, mainly low-level thefts, had been declining following maritime patrols by the three countries, but attacks appeared to have picked up last year in Malaysian and Indonesian waters.