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Monday, March 14, 2005

Gunmen hijacked gas tanker in Malacca Strait

Andy Cochrane at The Counterterrorism Blog was kind enough to email me a "heads up" on this: Gunmen hijacked gas tanker in Malacca Strait
A group of 35 gunmen armed with rocket launchers and machine guns seized a gas tanker in the Malacca Strait over the weekend, sparking fears of a terror attack, a piracy watchdog said Monday.

The pirates stormed the Indonesian-owned MT Tri Samudra carrying an unknown highly flammable chemical Saturday, taking control of the ship briefly before escaping with the captain and the chief engineer as hostages, said Noel Choong, regional manager of the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center in Kuala Lumpur.

The 1,289-ton tanker was sailing from Samarinda in Kalimantan on Borneo Island to Belawan port on northeastern Sumatra Island when it was hijacked.

"This is the first time pirates got hold of such a ship. Normally their targets are tug boats, smaller and easier to board," Choong said.

"Unfortunately, it is a tanker loaded with a highly flammable chemical. People worried initially that it was the work of terrorists. It is just the correct size to launch an attack on a port," he said, adding "This is a wakeup call for regional governments. What if these people attack with the aim for political gains?"
The somewhat good news in this attack is that it appears to have been a kidnapping/ransom effort. However, Mr. Choong has it right - this ought to be a "wakeup" call.

Update: The number of hijackers and their fire power is a matter for great concern. Increase "wake up" to full alert. Regional cooperation is vital to clear the area of this scourge.

Update 2: Map of general area. Arrow to the right is port of departure, arrow to left is approximate port of destination.

Update3: Article from Voice of America (ignore the picture in the article, it's not the ship in question).

Update 4: The tanker was previously known as the "Keizan Maru" as set out here.

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