AFTER nearly five years of no attacks, Somali pirates have struck for the second time in a month, hijacking an Indian cargo vessel off the coast of the Puntland region, Indian officials reported.
The ship was believed to have been traveling between Dubai and the port of Bosasso in Puntland when it was seized.
Last month, pirates seized a tanker bound for Mogadishu but later released it, apparently without demanding a ransom or other conditions, Lloyd’s List said in a bulletin.
That incident was the first hijacking of a large commercial ship off the Somali coast since 2012.
The Indian sources identified the latest victim as the Al Kausar, with 11 crew on board. Senior Indian shipping official Nalini Shankar was quoted by the Press Trust of India as saying the vessel was “not a big ship, but a dhow.”
A report by AFP said the vessel’s owner confirmed the hijacking on March 31, and said the ship was carrying goods such as wheat and sugar.
A crew member had apparently phoned the owner to tell him the vessel had been hijacked by five gunmen. There were no reports of injuries among the crew.
The Somali website Daynile, which is often a source of reports of hijackings, said the attack took place about 50 kilometers south of the port town of Hobyo.
Once a serious maritime security problem, piracy off the coast of Somalia declined dramatically in recent years due to extensive international military patrols, as well as aid to local fishing communities that were the source of most pirates.
In 2011, Somali pirate attacks peaked with 237 hijackings or attempted hijackings, costing the shipping industry nearly $8 billion annually.
Experts fear widespread famine in Somalia, poverty, and lack of job opportunities are again driving poor fishermen to piracy. According to the AFP report, there is also growing resentment over the poaching of fish stocks in Somali waters by Asian trawlers.