Colombo: The Maldives says it has abandoned an attempt to rescue a Bolivian-flagged cargo ship which was hijacked by pirates when it drifted away from its territorial waters.

The National Defense Force says the vessel identified as MV Eglantine was hijacked in the Indian Ocean waters off the Maldives on Monday. A coast guard vessel began tracking the vessel.

Defense Force spokesman Lt. Abdulla Ali said on Wednesday they abandoned the operation last evening after the ship left Maldivian waters.

Piracy has emerged as a major threat to merchant ships in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea. Somalia-based pirates hijack ships and crew for ransom.