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Crew on board a ship belonging to Israeli shipping company ZIM foiled an attempted hijacking off Somalia on Saturday, Israel Radio reported.

The ship Africa Star was on route from Mombasa in Kenya to Djibouti when pirates attacked as it sailed close to the Somali coast.

Two boats approached the ship and opened fire but were driven off following a gun battle with Israel security guards.

This is the second time the Africa Star has been attacked in a week.

On Wednesday the ship was attacked close to the site of Saturday's incident, but then too pirates were prevented from boarding the vessel.

Earlier this week pirates stormed a ship carrying Israeli cargo from the Ashdod to Thailand in the Indian Ocean.

No Israelis on board the MV Frigia, which was sailing under a Maltese flag.

The Turkish-owned vessel was carrying between 20,000 to 40,000 tons of potash for Israeli chemicals producer ICL - valued at some $11 million - when it was seized.

Piracy has become increasingly common in recent years off the coast of eastern Africa. Insurance costs for ships have multiplied 20 times because of this threat.

In recent weeks, NATO and EU naval forces have prevented 17 pirate attacks in the area off the coast of Somalia