Somali pirates hijacked a Yemeni fishing boat and a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship carrying chemicals in the latest attacks of a growing maritime crime wave, the gunmen and officials said today.
Patrols by a multinational naval force in the strategic shipping lanes that link Europe to Asia through the busy Gulf of Aden only appear to have forced the sea gangs to extend their range by striking deeper into the Indian Ocean.
One of the pirates, Hassan, told Reuters by telephone from the coastal town of Haradheere that three of his colleagues were wounded while seizing the cargo ship late yesterday.
“Its 24 crew are safe. There was brief fighting before we captured it. Three of my friends were injured,” Hassan said.
Pirates from the failed Horn of Africa state are holding at least 13 vessels and more than 230 crew hostage, including a British couple whose yacht was hijacked off the Seychelles.
Andrew Mwangura of the Kenya-based East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme named the cargo ship taken yesterday as the Marshall Islands-flagged MV Filitsa. He said three of its crew were Greek officers and the rest were Filipino sailors.
“She is carrying bulk urea,” he said, adding that the ship had been heading from Kuwait to Durban in South Africa when it was attacked 513 nautical miles northeast of the Seychelles.
Mwangura and another pirate, Osman, both said a fishing vessel had also been hijacked off the northern Somali coast earlier in the week.
“Our colleagues hijacked a Yemeni fishing boat near Hafun on Monday night,” Osman told Reuters.
Mwangura named that vessel as the Al Hilal or Al Halil.
“She is a white coloured fishing boat and was apparently heading north when the attack happened and it was taken over by at least 14 Somali gunmen,” he said.
On Sunday, pirates seized a United Arab Emirates-flagged cargo ship carrying weapons to Somalia, the gunmen and maritime experts said.
Earlier this week, the pirates launched their longest range hijack attempt yet: opening fire with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades at a Hong Kong-flagged crude oil tanker some 1000 nautical miles east of Mogadishu.