Third hijacking attempt off Somalia seen signaling return of piracy

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A Somali government soldier walks on the beach in Eyl, in Somalia's semiautonomous northeastern state of Puntland, in March. | AP
The brief hijacking of a Lebanese-registered ship has drawn attention to the resurgence of piracy off the coast of Somalia, after five years of inactivity.
Pirates boarded the OS 35, a cargo ship, Saturday evening but then abandoned it Sunday before naval forces rescued the ship, Mohamed Abdirahman, former director of Puntland’s marine forces, told The Associated Press.
The pirates were unable to take the crew hostage because they locked themselves in a safe room, said Abdirahman. No pirates were arrested and international naval forces are now escorting the ship, he said.
The ship was hijacked off the coast of war-torn Yemen near Socotra Island.
Somali pirates in recent weeks have hijacked at least two vessels with foreign crews in the waters off Somalia and Yemen.
In March, Somali pirates hijacked a Comoros-flagged oil tanker, marking the first such seizure of a large commercial vessel since 2012. They later released the vessel and its Sri Lankan crew without conditions.
Pirates later seized a fishing trawler, which Somali authorities warned could be used for further piracy.
Earlier this month, Somali pirates seized a small boat and its 11 Indian crew members as the vessel passed through the narrow channel between Socotra Island and Somalia’s coast.
Piracy off Somalia’s coast was once a serious threat to the global shipping industry. It has lessened in recent years after an international effort to patrol near the country, whose weak central government has been trying to assert itself after a quarter-century of conflict. Since then, concerns about piracy off Africa’s coast have largely shifted to the West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea on the Atlantic Ocean.
But frustrations have been rising among Somali fishermen, including former pirates, at what they say are foreign fishermen illegally fishing in local waters.
Dryad Maritime, the maritime safety company in Britain, is warning its clients to stay at least 100 nautical miles away from the so-called Socotra gap over piracy concerns.
“The fact they’ve taken three now in a row is an indicator or a warning of a growing problem” Brooks said. “I don’t think they are going to stop doing this.”

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