NAIROBI, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) -- Somali pirates have hijacked a yacht with two Brits on board, a regional maritime official confirmed on Tuesday.
Andrew Mwangura, the East Africa Coordinator of Seafarers Assistance Program (SAP), said the British couple was in a high-risk area for hijackings off Somalia when their yacht, the Lynn Rival, sent a distress signal.
"We received the reports today but it seemed the hijacking took place on Friday. The yatch was in high-seas which made the couple to lose contact," Mwangura told Xinhua by telephone from Mombasa.
Reports said an international search and rescue mission has been launched for Paul Chandler, 58, and his wife Rachel, 55, who went missing off the Somalia coast.
The couple was sailing towards Tanzania from the Seychelles in their Lynn Rival, when they sent a distress signal. They have not been heard from since.
"They (British couple) were hijacked along the Indian Ocean waters when they lost contact and then went missing," Mwangura said.
The latest attack off the coast of Somalia brings to 48 the number of ship-jacking cases this year despite the presence of multi-national navy forces in the world's most dangerous waters.
The latest figures published by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) last week indicates a sharp rise in the attacks in Somali waters compared with the 12 cases reported in the same period in 2008.
The bureau said most of them took place off the east coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, a major shipping route between Yemen and Somalia.
The Somali pirates successfully hijacked 33 vessels and took 533 hostages. According to the bureau eight others were wounded, four more killed and one is missing.
An estimated 25,000 ships annually cruise the Gulf of Aden, off Somalia's northern coast. Over 10 ships and 200 crew members are still held by Somali pirates.
The Gulf of Aden, off the northern coast of Somalia, has the highest risk of piracy in the world. About 25,000 ships use the channel south of Yemen, between the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea.