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EU Navfor urges vigilance after Somali hijacking

The Aris 13. EU Navfor photo.The Operation Commander of the EU Naval Force, Major General Rob Magowan CBE, has called for vigilance in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean after the Comoros-flagged fuel tanker, Aris 13, was pirated and its crew held hostage for four days off the north coast of Somalia.

Magowan on 17 March said, “Thankfully the crew are now safe, but this attack clearly demonstrated that Somali pirates still have the intent and capability to get out to sea. As I have stated previously, it is crucial that vessels remain vigilant in the Indian Ocean and stay within the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor as they transit the Gulf of Aden.”

The Aris 13 was hijacked off Somalia on 13 March, but was released on 16 March and is on her way to a port of safety. Sailors from the EU Naval Force French Navy frigate, FS Courbet, have provided support and reassurance to the crew as she sails along the coast of Somalia, the EU Navfor said.

It is understood that members of the Puntland Maritime Police Force assisted with the ship’s release. The release followed a gunfight between the pirates and the marine force and negotiations between the marine force, clan elders and pirates.

The pirates said they agreed to forego a ransom after learning Somali businessmen had hired the ship taking oil from Djibouti to Mogadishu. Pirates have traditionally been wary of tangling with Somalia's powerful businessmen, Reuters reports.

The hijacking was the first time Somali pirates have taken over a commercial ship since 2012 and followed an outpouring of anger by locals over foreign fishermen flooding into their waters. The Somalis are also angry with their government for licensing some of the ships.

In their heyday in 2011, Somali pirates launched 237 attacks off the coast of Somalia, data from the International Maritime Bureau showed, and held hundreds of hostages.

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