Hijacked Dubai freighter freed in botched rescue
Somali security forces have taken back control of an Indian cargo ship from pirates who hijacked it last week when it departed Dubai, but only two of the ten-man crew was rescued, authorities in central Somalia have announced.
The ship had been held off the coast of Yemen since March 31st when it was hijacked by the pirates, according to Abdulahi Ahmed Ali, district commissioner for the pirate-hub region of Hobyo.
“We have the boat and two of the crew members but eight other members of the crew are still missing because the pirates took them off the boat,” the commissioner confirmed to local press.
Ali said the two rescued crew members from India were healthy and that authorities were seeking their colleagues, who are believed to be being held by the pirates near Hobyo.
Local security forces forcefully engaged the pirates after negotiations failed, local security official Qoje Abdulahi told the AFP by phone.
Somali security forces exchanged fire with the hijackers who fled to the shore aboard a speed boat, taking eight of their hostages with them, Ali said.
The Al Kauser was the third vessel seized by pirates in less than a month off the coast of Somalia, with experts warning that ships have lowered their guard in the five years since the height of the piracy crisis.
Somali pirates began staging attacks in 2005, seriously disrupting the major international shipping route and costing the global economy billions of dollars.
At the peak of the piracy crisis in January 2011, 736 hostages and 32 boats were held.
Though anti-piracy measures, including an international naval task force dispatched to the area, ended attacks on commercial vessels, although fishing boats have continued to face attacks sporadically.
However on March 13th, pirates seized the oil tanker Aris 13 and eight Sri Lankan hostages in the first attack on a large merchant vessel by Somali pirates since 2012.
A week later a local cargo dhow was hijacked and taken out to sea, with the Oceans Beyond Piracy NGO warning it may be used as a “mother ship” for further attacks against larger vessels.
Somali pirates claim to be driven by anger over illegal fishing in Somali waters which has long been seen as a key grievance behind piracy in the country.
The Indian ship was carrying cargo including wheat and sugar from Dubai via Yemen to Somalia’s Bossaso port when it came under attack, owner Isaak Them told AFP.
The DP World-owned port operator P&O Ports announced this week that it was taking over the management of Bossaso Port and would be investing US $334-million in infrastructure upgrades.
When P&O Ports was launched last year, DP World chairman Sultan bin Sulayem said that piracy in the Indian Ocean would not deter shipping from using the African ports being targeted by the new company.