* Cameroon military kills four, captures three
* Pirate boat destroyed, weapons stash seized
* Former rebel leader says BFF group responsible
(Adds background in paragraphs 4 and 5)
By Tansa Musa
YAOUNDE, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Cameroon’s military killed four pirates who had attacked a fishing vessel off the Bakassi peninsula, destroying their speedboat and seizing a stash of weapons, the Ministry of Defence said on Thursday.
Three other gunmen injured in the attack by Cameroon’s rapid intervention force were taken prisoner and two others went missing, the ministry said in a release read over state radio.
The incident on Oct. 10 was the first reported pirate attack in the Gulf of Guinea since March, when gunmen attacked a supply vessel contracted by Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L), kidnapping four crew in the same region near the Nigerian border.
Analysts have said that increasing numbers of attacks in the region, home to myriad rebel groups and smugglers, could pose a long-term threat to oil supplies from some of Africa’s biggest producers — Nigeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and the Republic of Congo.
Several Gulf of Guinea countries including Cameroon agreed last spring to join forces to fight rising crime along the coast, and the top oil consumer the United States said it would help train African navies to boost maritime security.
Cameroon forces are investigating who is responsible for the latest attack.
A former commander of the rebel group Niger Delta Defence and Security Council had sent a letter to the Cameroon government in August warning of an imminent attack by the group’s former allies the Bakassi Freedom Fighters.
"The attack has come to confirm the letter I sent to the Cameroon government in August warning them of an imminent attack by the BFF," Ebi Dari, who masterminded a series of pirate attacks in 2007 and 2008, told Reuters by phone.
BFF has said it is seeking compensation on behalf of Nigerians compelled to leave the Bakassi peninsula after the disputed land was handed over to Cameroon in 2008.
A BFF spokesman was not available to comment.
In the past three years, heavily armed gunmen in fast launches from BFF joined other militants operating in Nigeria’s Niger Delta to prey on oil installations, oil and fishing boats and coastal towns in the Gulf of Guinea.
In the latest incident, the fishing vessel, named Rose Three, is owned by Atlantic Shrimpers Ltd., the largest fishing company in Nigeria, Cameroon’s defence ministry said.
A senior military official in Cameroon said the fishing vessel and its crew were unharmed in the attack.
For a TIMELINE on attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, click [ID:nLF324259]
(Reporting by Tansa Musa; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Diana Abdallah)