Sunday, May 26, 2024

A British sea monitoring agency says another vessel has been hijacked near Somalia

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Another vessel has been hijacked near the coast of Somalia, a British sea trade monitoring agency said Friday, raising more concerns that Somali pirates are active again, nearly a decade after they caused chaos for international shipping.

A dhow trading vessel was seized by heavily armed people near the town of Eyl off the coast of Somalia, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said. It cited military authorities as the source of the information.

The agency did not offer any details on who the hijackers were but said an investigation is underway.

The European Union’s Naval Force reported that a Maltese-flagged merchant vessel was hijacked in the nearby Arabian Sea last week and moved to the same area off Somalia’s coast. The bulk carrier Ruen had 18 crew onboard when it was hijacked near the Yemeni island of Socotra, around 240 kilometers (150 miles) off Somalia.

One crew member was evacuated to an Indian navy ship for medical care, the EU Naval Force said. Suspicion has also fallen on Somali pirates for that hijacking, although the EU force said the hijackers and their demands were unknown.

There has been a recent surge in attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea by Iran-backed Houthi rebels from Yemen, disrupting a major global trade route. The Houthis targeted Israeli-linked vessels over the Israel-Hamas war initially, but then escalated their attacks, hitting ships without clear ties.

The Pentagon said last month that five armed assailants who hijacked a commercial ship near Yemen and were captured by U.S. forces were likely Somalis and that attack — initially blamed on Houthi rebels — was “piracy-related.”

Somalia’s maritime police intensified its patrols following the announcement.

Attacks on vessels by Somali pirates peaked to more than 350 between 2010 and 2015, but had declined drastically since, largely due to patrols by U.S. and other allied naval forces.

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