Pirates have seized a merchant ship in the Red Sea and have taken it south towards Somali waters in the first successful hijacking in the region since 2012, maritime officials said on Sunday. The vessel, identified as the MV Marzooqah, sent a distress signal on Saturday evening in the Red Sea and was then turned towards the Gulf of Aden, Andrew Mwangura, secretary general of the Seafarers Union of Kenya, told Reuters. The number of attacks by Somali pirates dropped sharply in 2013, largely because of an international naval effort. But maritime experts have said the problem will remain as long as gangs operating out of Somalia are not disbanded on land. Relative stability in Somalia in the past two years after 20 years of chaos and war has raised hopes that it could lead to a more permanent solution to a problem that has driven up shipping insurance rates, but it has yet to solve the issue.