Are the pirates back? 11 Indian sailors on small boat hijacked off Somali coast

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 April, 2017, 6:18pm
UPDATED : Monday, 03 April, 2017, 10:48pm

Pirates have seized a small boat and kidnapped its 11 Indian crew members off the coast of Somalia, an investigator said on Monday, the latest vessel targeted by the region’s resurgent hijackers.

The attack on the small ship happened Saturday as the vessel passed through the narrow channel between Yemen’s Socotra island and the Somali coast, said Graeme Gibbon Brooks, the CEO of the maritime firm Dryad Maritime. The pirates are taking the vessel to the Eyl area of northern Somalia, he said.

The small dhow, a traditional wooden ship common in regional waters, initially was heading from Dubai to Bosaso, Somalia, he said.

Lieutenant Ian McConnaughey, a spokesman for the US Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain, said sailors there are “aware of the reports and we are monitoring the situation”. The 5th Fleet oversees regional anti-piracy efforts.

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Piracy off Somalia’s coast was once a serious threat to the global shipping industry. It has lessened in recent years after an international effort to patrol near the country, whose weak central government has been trying to assert itself after a quarter-century of conflict. Since then, concerns about piracy off Africa’s coast have largely shifted to the West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea on the Atlantic Ocean.

But frustrations have been rising among Somali fishermen, including former pirates, at what they say are foreign fishermen illegally fishing in local waters.

In March, Somali pirates hijacked the Comoros-flagged oil tanker Aris 13, marking the first such seizure of a large commercial vessel since 2012. They later released the vessel and its Sri Lankan crew without conditions, Somali officials said at the time.

Pirates in late March also seized a fishing trawler.