Two crewmen of Taiwanese vessel die during Somali hijacking.
Two crewmen -- an Indonesian and a Chinese national -- of a Taiwanese fishing vessel hijacked by Somali pirates that was later used to attack the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama, have died, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Thursday.
The MOFA also said it had not received any information from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) which reportedly wants the original crew of the Win Far 161 for questioning in connection with the piracy attack against Maersk Alabama.
The 700-ton longliner Win Far 161 and its crew of 30 were released Feb. 11 by Somali pirates who hijacked the vessel near an island in the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean April 6, 2009. Two days later, the vessel was reported to have been used by Somali pirates as a mother ship in the April 8 attack against the U.S. ship.
Earlier this month, the MOFA said all the crew were safe and denied a report from the maritime watchdog Ecoterra International saying that three men -- two Indonesians and one Chinese crewman -- had died of malnutrition and disease.
The Win Far 161 is expected to return to Taiwan in mid-March, said Samuel Chen, director-general of MOFA's Department of African Affairs.
According to Ecoterra International, the 10-month Win Far 161 ordeal was the longest-running case of Somali piracy.
"During the 10 months the vessel was held in Somalia, information received by the ministry was vague and conflicting due to a lack of electronic communication, " Department of African Affairs section chief Huang Chih-yang said.
The ministry had trouble sending staff to Somalia due to safety concerns and had to rely heavily on the ship owner for information.
The ship's owner did the negotiation for ransom and did not allow the ministry to interfere, Huang noted.
Chen rebutted reports that the hostages' respective authorities did not provide assistance to the crewmen and said the rescue was a coordinated international effort that involved many international organizations.
The ministry is aware of the report that the Win Far 161 was used to attack the Maersk Alabama right after it was seized, Huang went on, adding that global positioning system information shows the Taiwanese vessel was close to the U.S. ship at the time.
"It could have been used, but there is no way for us to confirm that at present, " Huang said.