More than 30 Somali pirates are missing at sea and colleagues said today they feared they had drowned or been attacked by the crews of foreign warships.
Patrols by foreign navies off the lawless Horn of Africa state have failed to stop hijackings by the heavily armed sea gangs in the strategic shipping lanes that link Europe to Asia.
The French military said yesterday that one of its naval vessels had repelled a night assault by Somali pirates who apparently believed it was a cargo ship, capturing five of the attackers after a chase on the high seas.
A pirate who gave his name as Hassan told Reuters today that many more of their colleagues had disappeared.
“We are missing more than 30 of our friends who went out to sea over the last two weeks to carry out hijackings,” he said by telephone from one of the gangs’ strongholds, Haradheere.
“We have lost communication with them and we’re afraid that they have been captured or killed by warships, or else drowned.”
Monsoon rains lashing the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden had curbed attacks, but now the raids have started to pick up again. Last Friday, gunmen seized a Spanish tuna fishing boat with 36 crew members on board.
The gangs from Somalia some of them made up of former fishermen angered by foreign fleets trawling Somali waters for years have made tens of millions of dollars in ransoms.
Earlier this week, they freed a Turkish ship and its 23 sailors after a pirate source said they received a $1.5 million ransom.