Pirates in the Gulf of Aden fired on a Libyan oil tanker bound for China early on Sunday but failed to hijack the ship which sped on into safer waters, a Libyan newspaper reports.
The Aisha was carrying 144,464 tonnes of Nile crude from Bashir port in Sudan and was in a shipping lane subject to international monitoring, independent daily Oea said, citing a Libyan shipping official.
A boat stopped in the Aisha’s path at 2:35 a.m. and its occupants opened fire, the paper said.
“About five more boats arrived to support the first boat and shot at the tanker to force it to stop,” Oea quoted the head of operations at Libya’s Maritime Transport Company, Abdulhakim al-Ghazzawi, as saying. “The captain ignored their orders to stop and accelerated until he entered safe waters.”
Oea did not give the nationality of the Aisha’s crew, Reuters adds.
Somali pirates have increased their activities in recent months even after foreign navies boosted their presence in the Gulf of Aden to protect ships travelling between Europe and Asia.
Meanwhile, Somali pirates have released a Nigerian tugboat after holding it and its crew hostage for 10 months, NATO alliance officials said on Saturday.
NATO forces patrolling the Gulf of Aden received news that the MV Yenegoa Ocean had been released on Friday night with 10 crew members off the coast of Caluula, northeast Somalia, NATO Lieutenant Caroline Ghijsen said.
Monitoring groups say the Nigerian sailors were the longest-held crew of any of those abducted by Somali pirates since a wave of ship hijackings off the Horn of Africa began.
It was not immediately known if a ransom had been paid.
The firefighting and supply tug was hijacked on Aug. 4 as it was returning to Nigeria from Singapore, where it had gone for repairs.
Marines from the alliance’s Dutch warship De Zeven Provincien boarded the tug before dawn on Saturday, Ghijsen told Reuters by satellite phone.
She said one person was in need of medical attention and had been moved to the Provincien for treatment.
“His injuries are not life threatening … Overall the crew are in a good state of health, they have only small problems,” she added.
NATO Lieutenant Commander Alexandre Fernandes, on board NATO’s mission flagship Corte Real, said the Provincien was providing medical and logistical support while escorting the tug at low speed to a safe harbour in Yemen, where it was expected to dock for repairs on Sunday evening.