Somali pirates release captured oil tanker, hostages

Somali forces
Somali pirates release captured oil tanker, hostages
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17 March, 2017

The Combined Maritime Force in Bahrain is in contact with Somali Maritime Police on behalf of Sri Lanka to rescue the eight Sri Lankan crew aboard the Airs-13 hijacked by Somali pirates on Monday, according to Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena.

John Steed, regional manager of the watchdog group Oceans Without Piracy, told VOA, "They [the pirates] were given an offer they could not refuse - live or die".

Earlier in the day, there were clashes between naval forces and the pirates who started shooting at each other. It came as a surprise to the global shipping industry as worldwide patrols had suppressed pirate hijackings for several years.

Puntland authorities said earlier that they will send forces to the oil tanker kidnapped by pirates at the coast under its administration.

A Somali maritime official said: "We tried to intercept a boat that was carrying supplies to the pirates, but pirates on the ship fired on us and so the pirate boat escaped". The ship's master had confirmed that the armed pirates are demanding a ransom for the release of the ship.

Naval forces have now boarded it and were escorting the ship to Bossaso port, the region's commercial hub.

"We don't have facts, but we heard perhaps they moved away from Alula because they received hostile reception from their locals and they felt under pressure to move", Abdirazak Mohamed Dirir, Puntland counterpiracy director, told VOA.

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"The ship reported it was being followed by two skiffs yesterday afternoon".

Somalian pirates seized the Aris-13 fuel freighter and are holding the eight Sri Lankan crew hostage. "They desperately need to show their grievances by seizing the boat", said Abdiwahab Ahmed, an elder in Alula.

Pirates have traditionally been wary of getting caught up with the country's powerful businessmen.

The vessel was carrying oil and was owned by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), despite conflicting reports over the flag it was sailing under, he added.

Many Somalis, including former pirates, depend on fishing to make a living. 'Foreign fishermen destroyed their livelihoods and deprived them of proper fishing'.

However, some smaller fishing vessels have recently been seized in the area.


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