Turkey has launched rescue efforts after armed pirates attacked a container ship and abducted 15 sailors in the Gulf of Guinea.

The Liberian-flagged cargo ship called Mozart was travelling from Nigerian city of Lagos to Cape Town in South Africa when it was attacked by pirates approximately 100 nautical miles off Sao Tome island.

One Azerbaijani sailor was killed in the incident while 15 others were kidnapped, all of whom are from Turkey.

Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency reported that the pirates left the ship there with three sailors onboard. With most of the controls damaged, the ship reached neighbouring Gabon, using a navigation system, which was working.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said: “We are continuing coordinated negotiations for the release of the abducted sailors.

“These thugs, the pirates who kidnapped our citizens have not yet contacted us.”

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Istanbul-based Boden Maritime, which owns and operates the Mozart vessel, also confirmed the incident and death of one of its crew member.

The offshore region of the Gulf, which borders several countries, is notorious for such pirate activities.

Last year, 130 sailors were kidnapped in 22 incidents, Reuters reported.

The latest incident is expected to increase pressure on Nigeria to focus on strengthening the safety of shipping activities in the region.

In July 2019, in a similar incident, ten Turkish seamen were abducted off the coast of Nigeria. They were released nearly a month later.