The first hijacking off Somalia’s coast in five years has concluded with eight crew members of a Sri Lankan oil tanker released without the payment of a ransom, three days after they were kidnapped.
Despite this incident ending relatively successfully locals from the country’s fishing community have warned that the attacks will continue, explaining that their government in Puntland is to blame for granting foreigners permits to fish in Somali waters.
Al Jazeera reported on Friday morning that Thursday’s release of eight crew members followed a gun battle earlier in the day between the pirates, and the marine force, followed by intensive negotiations between the two groups – and the mediation of clan elders.
The last hijacking by Somali pirates of a commercial ship was in 2012 and followed immense anger by Somalis over foreign fishermen flooding their waters, despite Mogadishu licensing some of the vessels and granting them permission to fish in Somali territorial waters.
Hitherto, the African east coast, particularly Somalia which has one of the longest coastlines in Africa, had been a dangerous area for shipping vessels with pirates regularly attacking ships and kidnapping their crews.
Subsequent intervention by foreign naval and security vessels, which accompanied the commercial vessels and patrolled the area, brought the hijacking to a halt until Tuesday’s attack.
The positive conclusion of the Sri Lankan crew’s ordeal differed vastly from previous kidnappings over the years when ransoms were demanded and crew members sometimes held for years by the pirates.
In this particular instance the pirates agreed to forgo a ransom after being informed that Somali businessmen had hired the ship in order to transport oil from Djibouti to Mogadishu.
Their change of heart in demanding a ransom appears to be related to their fears of angering the country’s powerful businessmen.
Piracy off the coast of East Africa, particularly Somalia, has been very lucrative for the hijackers, netting them a total of $7-billion since 2007, Abdinur Ali, a senior maritime security official in Puntland, told Anadolu Agency.
He said approximately 1 000 hostages had been kidnapped in that time frame.