Somali pirates threatened to blow up a hijacked oil supertanker unless a $20 million ransom was paid and captured a Panama-flagged merchant ship.
South Korea sent a destroyer to intercept the Samho Dream, laden with 2 million barrels of crude oil, and its crew of five South Koreans and 19 Filipinos, after it was seized this month.
“We are demanding $20 million to release the large South Korea ship,” said Hashi, commander of the pirates holding the Singapore-owned vessel.
“The ship and the crew are safe. We know some warships are plotting to attack us, but we are telling them that the ship will be blown up if we are attacked,” he said from the pirate lair of Hobyo.
The sea gangs have made off with millions of dollars in ransoms by roaming the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean and seizing vessels and their crews.
Maritime experts say the pirates have stepped up attacks, largely due to good weather that favours their operations.
Andrew Mwangura of the Kenya-based East Africa Seafarers’ Assistance Programme said the Panama-flagged MV Voc Daisy was seized in the early hours, 190 miles southeast of the Omani port of Salalah. It has 21 Filipino crew members.
He said the bulk carrier had been sailing from the United Arab Emirates to an unspecified port on the Suez Canal. It was not immediately clear what it was carrying.
The European Union naval patrol force in the region confirmed the seizure of the 47 183 dwt ship on its website.
Three Thai fishing vessels were seized over the weekend and several unsuccessful attacks have been carried out since then.
The sea gangs have extended their reach southwards and towards India to avoid a flotilla of foreign navies patrolling the waters off Somalia.
One such Somali group lost its way when returning to the pirate lair of Hobyo from the Seychelles but instead found themselves in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa.
Abdulkhadir Jim’ale, who returned to his home town Galkayo at the weekend, told Reuters the gang was returning from Seychelles after a failed trip to hunt commercial ships in the Indian Ocean, because they had run out of supplies.
“We had been in the high seas for a few days when we run out of food and drinking water. We decided to head back to Hobyo but at midnight, we found ourselves in a shiny city with lights,” Jim’ale said.
“It was Mombasa. We threw our guns into the sea, left the boat at the beach and sneaked into the city in the dark.”
Four of his colleagues made their way back to Somalia but three are still missing.
Jim’ale was one of 23 suspected Somalis pirates released by Seychelles in September.