Armed pirates have renewed attacks on merchant ships off Somalia, hijacking one and holding 20 of its crew hostage, an ocean crime watchdog said on Wednesday.This report fills in item #1 from here.
The attacks, one on a United Arab Emirates general cargo ship on Sunday and another launched from a so called "mother ship" last Friday, come only days after a U.S. Navy warship captured a band of suspected pirates with a cache of arms.
"With these attacks we now have a grand total of five ships and around 100 mariners being held hostage in Somalia, it was as many as 200, and some have been held for four months," Jayant Abhyankar, deputy director of the IMB, told Reuters.
The IMB said gunmen stormed the UAE-owned Al Manara 150 nautical miles off the east coast of Somalia, threatened the crew, and are now demanding a ransom for their release.
One industry newspaper on Wednesday reported that the crew were low on drinking water and supplies.
In a second attack, the IMB said pirates in two speed boats, chased and fired machine guns at a dry-bulk ship off Somalia's east coast before giving up on an attempted boarding.
The IMB said the speed boats were launched from a "mother ship" similar to one that launched attacks in the Indian Ocean last November.
UPDATE: Or maybe not:
A global ocean crime watchdog said on Thursday a United Arab Emirates merchant ship with 20 crew aboard had not been hijacked off Somalia as the agency had reported on Wednesday.
Instead, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said in a statment that with the master's consent, two Somali militia men had boarded the general cargo ship Al Manara to discuss security issues with the crew on Sunday, the day of the reported hijacking.
Following an investigation by the U.S. Navy it was found that the master of the ship, fearing an attack and hijack, panicked and issued a mayday call for help.
The IMB, however, said a second attempted attack off Somalia it reported on Wednesday with the use of speedboats had taken place.