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MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somali pirates were behind the hijacking of a Chinese bulk carrier with 25 Chinese crew seized in the Indian Ocean on Monday, a member of the gang said. "We have captured a Chinese ship carrying fuel," gang member Hassan told Reuters by phone from Haradheere, a pirate stronghold north of the Somali capital, Mogadishu. "My friends will bring the ship to either Haradheere or Hobyo. We have not yet decided but it is heading towards this area." The European Union's counter-piracy force said earlier the vessel was seized 550 nautical miles northeast of the Seychelles and 700 nautical miles from the east coast of Somalia. John Harbour, a spokesman for the naval force in Brussels said an EU maritime patrol aircraft had located the vessel. "There are 25 Chinese on board, and she is about 350 miles north of the Seychelles and 700 miles off the Somali coast," he said. Harbour added: "The aircraft spotted at least four pirates on the deck and the vessel is towing two skiffs. It was last reported heading west towards the Somali coast." Somali pirate gangs have caused havoc in the strategic waterways linking Europe with Asia this year, even though foreign navies patrol the area, and have made millions of dollars in ransom payments. (Reporting by Abdi Sheikh in Mogadishu and David Brunnstrom in Brussels; editing by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura and Andrew Dobbie)

Reuters