French-flagged tanker in W. Africa "released"

A French-flagged tanker has been released after it was captured four days ago in the piracy-plagued waters off West Africa, the International Maritime Bureau said Monday.

In a short alert, the IMB's Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting centre said the vessel was "released" earlier Monday and "is now proceeding to a safe port".

The centre said the tanker was taken by pirates but did not say whether there were any losses, and could not be reached for further details.

The owners lost contact with their vessel early Thursday while it was in the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of Togo, leading the IMB to issue a warning to other ships in the area.

The gulf, which includes waters off Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, has emerged as a new piracy hotspot with 32 incidents so far this year and 62 incidents recorded in 2012 including hijackings, kidnappings and killings.

Pirates in the area typically target fuel cargo, loading it onto other ships to sell on the lucrative black market, rather than seek ransom to release ships, the IMB said.