By Abdiqani Hassan
BOSASSO, Somalia (Reuters) – Pirates have hijacked an Indian commercial ship off the coast of Somalia, the second attack in weeks after years of inactivity by pirates, industry and security sources said on Monday.
United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which coordinates the management of all merchant ships and yachts in the Gulf of Aden area, said it had received information that a dhow en route to Bosasso from Dubai had been hijacked “in the vicinity of Socotra (Island)”.
A spokesman said UKMTO was unable to confirm the location of the vessel, which he identified as Al Kausar, or what had taken place, and that investigations were ongoing.
“We understand Somali pirates hijacked a commercial Indian ship and (it is heading) towards Somalia shores,” Abdirizak Mohamed Dirir, a former director of the anti-piracy agency in Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region, told Reuters.
Somali pirates hijacked of an oil tanker last month, the first commandeering of a vessel since 2012, but released it after a fight with the Puntland marine force.
Somalis have been angered recently by foreign fishermen flooding into their waters, some of whom have been given licences to fish there by the Somali government.
Graeme Gibbon-Brooks of UK-based Dryad Maritime Security said industry sources had told him the Indian vessel was en route to Bosasso from Dubai when it was hijacked on Saturday.
The pirates were on board and were taking the ship and its 11 crew members to Eyl in Puntland, he said.
India’s ministry of external affairs told Reuters it could not confirm the hijack but some local Indian media reported the ship was called Al Kaushar.
In a separate incident that highlights increased pirate activity, UKMTO said on its website that early on Monday, six skiffs had approached a vessel it did not identify and that ladders and hooks were sighted.
The vessel raised alarm, prompting armed guards to take position and the skiffs left, leaving the vessel unharmed, UKTMO said.
(Additional reporting by Katharine Houreld and George Obulutsa in Nairobi; Jonathan Saul in London and Tommy Wilkes and Nidhi Verma in New Delhi; Writing by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Catherine Evans)