Fifteen sailors were abducted by pirates from a Turkish container ship – M/V Mozart, reports said on Sunday.
A sailor was killed in the attack, which occurred on Saturday and has been described as brazen and violent.
Accounts from crew, family members and security sources described a sophisticated and well-orchestrated attack in which armed pirates boarded the ship and breached its protective citadel, possibly with explosives.
Three sailors remain on the Mozart, which was approaching Gabon’s Port Gentil on Sunday and expected to dock.
The Liberian-flagged vessel was headed to Cape Town from Lagos when it was attacked 160 kilometres off Sao Tome island on Saturday.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s office said on Sunday he was orchestrating officials in the “rescue of kidnapped ship personnel”.
Erdogan spoke twice by phone with the ship’s fourth captain, Furkan Yaren, who remained aboard after the attack, his office said.
Yaren reportedly claimed he had been “cruising blindly” toward Gabon with damage to the ship’s controls and only the radar working. The pirates beat crew members and left him with an injured leg while another still aboard the ship had shrapnel wounds.
Turkey’s foreign ministry said the pirates had not made any contact with Ankara.
Seyit Kaya, brother of the ship’s kidnapped 42-year-old captain Mustafa Kaya, a father of two, said in an interview he awaited details from the ship’s owner on any possible ransom.
“Since that area is where many attacks take place, they take cautions against pirates,” said Kaya, who is also a sailor.