SINGAPORE: Pirates attacked a South Korean-flagged cargo ship near the Singapore Strait on Monday (Jul 22) morning, assaulting the crew and making off with thousands of dollars in cash, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.

Two people sustained minor injuries when seven pirates boarded the CK Bluebell and made off with US$13,000 (S$17,700) and belongings including mobile phones, clothes and shoes from the 22-strong crew, South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said.

The pirates were armed with guns and other weapons, Yonhap reported, citing officials.

The dry bulk vessel CK Bluebell had set sail from its anchorage off Singapore late Saturday afternoon, heading northeast for South Korea’s Incheon port, according to Refinitiv Eikon ship tracking data.

Korean officials said the ship was sailing normally after the robbery.

CNA has reached out to the Singapore Police Force, which manages the coastguard, and Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) for more information on the incident.

Piracy has fallen in the busy sea lane that runs past Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia in recent years amid heavier policing.

Earlier this month, MPA said there had been no information on immediate threats to ships sailing through the Straits of Malacca and Singapore or to Singapore-registered ships.

The authority was responding after China raised its security warning to the highest level for its vessels heading through the Straits of Malacca. China did not give a reason for the raised alert, according to Bloomberg.

In May, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen warned that piracy and terrorism were among threats to maritime security.

While the number of piracy and armed robbery incidents along the Strait of Malacca fell from 20 in 2007 to eight so far this year, “more work needs to be done” on terrorism threats, he said.

He added that experts believe that most of the weapons used by militants during the recent conflict in Marawi came from the sea.

Other Islamic State-linked terrorists like the Abu Sayaff group also continue to abduct the crew of transiting ships in the Sulu-Celebes Sea and the waters off East Sabah in exchange for ransom.