Right under the noses of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet Somali pirates have hijacked an oil tanker off the Horn of Africa. Officials say this is the first such hijacking to occur since 2012. Historically, the area where the hijacking occurred has been a traditional hunting ground for Islamic Pirates for centuries and the area is currently under the protection of the U.S. Navy which is based in Bahrain.
A military spokesperson told reporters that it is currently unclear what the pirates intentions are with regards to the ship, cargo and crew, but it may be a direct challenge to the new president coming this soon after a change in administrations. On Monday, the ship known as the Aris 13 was approached by two high-speed skiffs according to reports. According to the organization, Oceans Beyond Piracy the ship had been carrying fuel from Djibouti to Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.
An official in the semi-autonomous state of Puntland said over two dozen men boarded the ship off Somalia’s northern coast. Another Puntland official said the ship was being moved toward the coast. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
Meanwhile, a Britain-based spokeswoman, Flt. Lt. Louise Tagg, for the European Union Naval Force that has been operating off the Somalia coast for the last few years confirmed that an incident involving an oil tanker had occurred and an investigation was underway. As yet there has been no demand for a ransom of the ship or her cargo or crew.
“The vessel’s captain reported to the company they were approached by two skiffs and that one of them they could see armed personnel on board,” the official said. “The ship changed course quite soon after that report and is now anchored.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity as no one was authorized to speak publicly about the incident.
After 25 years of lawlessness, the crippled central government has been attempting to exert control over the area. But many of the local fishermen are feeling very frustrated, at what they say are foreign fishermen illegally fishing in local waters. One elder, Salad Nur, of Alula, a coastal town in Puntland, told a reporter by telephone that young fishermen including some former pirates have hijacked the ship.
“They have been sailing through the ocean in search for a foreign ship to hijack since yesterday morning and found this ship and boarded it,” he said. “Foreign fishermen destroyed their livelihoods and deprived them of proper fishing.”