Somali pirates suspected to have hijacked SL flagged ship

Claudine Rigal
Mars 21, 2017

The diversion of an European Union naval force to tackle the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean has been blamed for the first pirate attack in five years on an global ship off Somalia.

Although the incident is the first major pirate attack near Somalia since 2012, John Steed said the pirates did not leave.

It was the first hijacking off Somalia's coast since 2012. Some experts say it's because forces in the region had let down their guard, since the situation had calmed down. NATO's counter-piracy operation was so successful that officials decided in December that it was no longer necessary. "The master confirmed that armed men were on board his ship and they were demanding a ransom for the ship's release", said the statement.

Most of the sailors being held captive have been locked in a room, with lines of communication cut off to frustrate any rescue attempts.

All available EU Naval Force assets are continuing to monitor the situation.

It said the attack came shortly after the master issued a mayday alert to say that two skiffs were closing in on his ship in the Gulf of Aden.

The ship was thought to be carrying eight crew members before it was hijacked on Monday, according to Steed.

Weapons smugglers and members of the al-Qaida-linked extremist group al-Shabab are known to be in the area.

The vessel was reportedly boarded by more than two dozen men and is now anchored off Alula. The official also spoke on condition of anonymity.

"The EU Naval Force has now passed the information regarding the incident to the ship's owners", it said. Calls and emails to Aurora went unanswered.

It was not immediately clear who owned the ship or where it was flagged.

In their heyday in 2011, Somali pirates launched 237 attacks off the coast of Somalia, data from the International Maritime Bureau showed, and held hundreds of hostages.

"So this is not a pirate attack, it's angry fishermen trying to protect their area so that they can fish", said Harare Ahmed Mohamed Matan, a fisherman in Puntland, in a phone interview.

However, it has been several years since Somali pirates successfully hijacked a merchant ship.

Since piracy has lessened in recent years after an global effort to patrol near Somalia, concerns about piracy off Africa's coast have largely shifted to the Gulf of Guinea. "We fear for the lives of our loved ones", Makalandawa is reported as saying after she and other families met with Sri Lankan foreign ministry officials.

Salad Nur, an elder from Putland, Somalia, told the Associated Press that local fishermen and former pirates were behind the hijack.

"Coastal communities are angry at the foreign vessels and at the authorities who they believe have licensed some of them", he said.

Other reports by CampDesrEcrues

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