LONDON, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Pirates have attacked a British-owned cargo ship in the Gulf of Guinea, taking three crew members hostage, the vessel's owner said.
The UK-flagged ship Esther C was boarded on Thursday by pirates who stole some property, took the seamen then left, said Isle of Wight-based Carisbrooke Shipping in a statement.
Russia's foreign ministry said two of its citizens were among the hostages taken between the Cameroonian port of Douala and the port of Malabo in Equatorial Guinea.
Armed hijackings have been on the rise in West Africa's Gulf of Guinea, an increasingly important source of oil, cocoa and metals for world markets.
Armed gangs have typically targeted oil tankers and attacks on cargo ships are rarer.
Carisbrooke said the remaining nine crew members on board were safe and well and the ship had continued its journey.
Earlier this week a Luxembourg-flagged, French-owned petroleum products tanker hijacked off Ivory Coast was released with its crew of 17 safe.
Many Gulf of Guinea pirate groups are offshoots of militant organisations that once operated in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta but have since signed an amnesty agreement with the government. (Reporting by Jonathan Saul in London and Alissa De Carbonnel in Moscow; Editing by Andrew Heavens)