Somali pirates have released four Iranian fishermen captured three years ago in international waters off Somalia.
The fishermen were welcomed by Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi in Tehran on 7 June, Press TV reports.
Hedayatullah Mirmoradzehi, managing director of the Fishery Organization in Sistan-Baluchestan Province told Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) that 20 fishermen from the province have been taken hostage by Somali pirates since 2015, and sixteen more are at Iran’s embassy in Kenya ahead of returning to Iran.
The fishermen were apparently released after an operation carried out with the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Iranian Foreign Ministry.
In February 2017, eight Iranian sailors were freed after negotiations between Senegal’s embassy in Somalia and pirates.
Pirate activity off East Africa doubled in 2017 compared to the previous year, Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) said last month, indicating that Somali criminal networks are still capable of sophisticated attacks. For 2017 OBP recorded a total of 54 incidents in the Western Indian Ocean Region, an increase of 100 percent from 2016, which saw 27 incidents. These incidents included one hijacking, three kidnappings, three robberies, 15 failed attacks and 32 incidents of suspicious activity.
“The short surge in hijacking attacks in the first quarter of 2017 has been attributed to several factors. These include the continued intent of pirate action groups to launch attacks and the opportunity to do so, due to lessened adherence to ship self-protection measures, including Best Management Practices (BMP). Independent deployers represented the primary naval presence in the region, but both coalition forces and independent deployers decreased days of operation, or days on station in the region, in 2017.
“As in previous years, the capability and intent of pirate networks has not decreased, as was witnessed with the increased number of hijackings, including of the Aris 13, the Asayr 2, the and Al Kausar,” Oceans Beyond Piracy said. The 23 March 2017 hijacking of the Aris 13 tanker off Somalia marked the first successful hijacking of a merchant ship in five years. Two dhows were also attacked off Somalia.
“Although the attacks on the Aris 13 and other ships demonstrated pirate activity not often seen in recent years, OBP does not believe that this suggests the re-emergence of large-scale piracy in the Horn of Africa. Such activity continues to reinforce the need for vessels to adhere to industry Best Management Practices (BMP),” Oceans Beyond Piracy said.