The Tanzanian navy captured a suspected Somali pirate after an exchange of gunfire in the Indian Ocean south of the east African country, said police.
The incident occurred about 70 nautical miles off the Mtwara coast in southern Tanzania where London-based, Africa-focused oil and gas explorer Ophir Energy has a vessel doing exploration work.
“The Somali pirate boat opened heavy fire on the Tanzanian navy vessel on Sunday night. The navy vessel was seriously damaged and was pierced, with at least 50 bullet holes,” Mtwara Regional Police Commander Steven Buyuya told Reuters.
“We cannot rule out the possibility that the Somali pirates could have been planning to kidnap expatriate workers taking part in the oil exploration activities in Tanzania.”
Two Tanzanian soldiers were wounded in the incident.
After the clash, navy and police boats were deployed to chase the pirate boat. They arrested one suspected pirate, who was brought to Dar es Salaam for interrogation, but the others escaped, Buyuya said.
The Ophir Energy exploration vessel was anchored at Mtwara port while police continued to patrol the area.
Tanzania said in May it had agreed to prosecute Somali pirates in response to a European Union call for other nations in the region to share the financial and security burden with Kenya and Seychelles.
Kenya has borne the brunt of taking in and prosecuting sea bandits seized by foreign navies patrolling the Gulf of Aden’s busy shipping lanes that link Europe with Africa and Asia. Tanzania has attracted increased exploration interest in recent years.