Pirates kill crew member of Vietnamese tanker off Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR - Pirates have shot dead a crew member of a Vietnamese tanker off the eastern coast of Malaysia, maritime officials said Monday, the latest in a spate of attacks in Southeast Asian waters.

The 16-crew tanker was carrying asphalt from Singapore to Vietnam when pirates stormed the vessel on Sunday near Aur island off southern Johor state, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

"Armed robbers had boarded a tanker...They shot a crew member on the head and killed him. Pirates also stole crew properties before escaping," Noel Choong, head of IMB's Kuala Lumpur-based Piracy Reporting Center, told AFP.

Choong said the shot crew member was flown to a Singapore hospital but died from his injuries.

While the deadly incident was the first in almost two years in Malaysian waters, the IMB in Oct warned of an increase in Southeast Asian pirate attacks, saying they made up the bulk of incidents reported globally.

There were 103 pirate attacks in Southeast Asian waters in the first three quarters of this year, out of 178 globally, according to IMB - far ahead of the notorious waters off Somalia.

The organisation warned that "gangs of thieves armed with knives and guns" were increasingly attacking small tankers carrying oil or diesel and stealing the cargo in Southeast Asia.

The region is home to vital shipping lanes such as the South China Sea and the Malacca Strait separating Malaysia and Indonesia, through which one-third of global trade passes.