French tanker released by pirates heading to Togo

A French tanker that was released on Wednesday by armed pirates who seized it earlier in the week is headed to Togo's capital Lome, a port official in the west African nation told AFP.

A spokesman for Sea Tankers, owner of the vessel that was hijacked off Ivory Coast, had earlier confirmed the release and said that two of the 17 sailors on board reported light injuries when the ship was freed.

"The ship is indeed expected in Lome," said the port official, who requested anonymity. "We received information last night that the ship is moving towards," the city.

The Sea Tankers spokesman said part of its cargo had been stolen, but provided no other details on why the pirates abandoned the ship.

He also declined to comment on the ship's location at the time of its release, citing security concerns.

Sea Tankers also "thanked naval forces, local authorities and all others who allowed for this successful outcome."

The company lost communication with the ship, the Luxembourg-flagged Gascogne, on Sunday morning.

Ivory Coast officials said an armed gang had hijacked the vessel in Ivorian waters 139 kilometres (86 miles) from Abidjan. On Monday they said it appeared to be somewhere off the coast of Nigeria.

Officials said 15 African and two Asian sailors were aboard the ship, including seven Togolese, four men from Benin, two Senegalese, two Ivorians, a Chinese and a South Korean.

The tanker, which had been chartered by a South Korean company, had 3,000 tonnes of diesel fuel onboard while in port in Abidjan a few days before the hijacking, but had already offloaded some onto another ship before being seized.

The hijacking marked the third such incident in recent months in Ivory Coast after pirates seized a Panama-flagged oil tanker anchored in Abidjan last month and hijacked a Greek tanker in the same city in October, looting the vessel before releasing it.