News:Middle East & Africa

UPDATED: Somali pirates hijack third vessel in less than a month

Indian-flagged Al Kauser in 2006 - photo taken from Twitter Indian-flagged Al Kauser in 2006 - photo taken from Twitter

Somali pirates have hijacked an Indian-registered cargoship Al Kausar off the coast of the semi-autonomous region of Puntland. 

EU Navfor confirmed that suspected pirates had hijacked an Indian dhow and the vessel was now in the vicinity of Hobyo on the Somali coast, where many vessels and crew were held captive when Somali piracy was at its height in the period 2009 - 2012.

"An EU Naval Force maritime patrol aircraft has confirmed the exact location of the dhow and has attempted to establish radio communications but without success," EU Navfor said.

Reports from India suggest 11 crew members were on board when the ship was hijacked.

The incident be confirmed, it marks the third attack by Somali pirates in less than a month, in an area that had not previously seen a hijacking since 2012.

On 13 March, pirates hijacked the Aris 13 vessel en route to Mogadishu from Djibouti, releasing the crew three days later, and the vessel a further day later. 

And on March 23, an ocean going dhow, the Asayr 2, was been hijacked by Somali pirates with the intention to use the dhow as a mother ship for further attacks.

Addressing the situation after the second attack, Oceans Beyond Piracy warned: “This attack shows that Somali pirates still possess the capability and intent to capture vessels. Additionally tensions in coastal communities about illegal fishing in Somali waters continue to escalate. 

“At the same time vessels are transiting closer to shore, with low freeboard and at slow speeds are granting pirates access to vulnerable vessels.

“The attack on the Asayr 2 and the Aris 13 should be taken as a warning to the seafaring community that there is the potential for piracy in the region and that appropriate safety measures such as the industry recommended Best Management Practices should continue to be followed.”  

Previously, Somalia was a well-known hijacking hot-spot; at the height of the crisis in 2011, there were 237 attacks and the annual cost of piracy was estimated to be up to $8bn.

Beefed up international military patrols and vessels sailing further from the coast helped combat the problem, leading to a period of calm before this most recent spate of hijackings.  

Posted 03 April 2017

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James Henderson

Middle East Correspondent

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