• Now in custody of 11 ships, 200 hostages
Somali pirates hijacked a vessel carrying 22 crew members that was heading to Durban, South Africa, mid last week. It was the fourth of random attacks on ships off the Somali coast between Monday and Thursday last week.
A news release from the European Union Naval Force on Somalia and monitored in Lagos said the vessel, MV Filitsa, was attacked in the south Somali Basin of the Indian Ocean, 400 nautical miles north-east of the Seychelles.
It was now heading north, the force said. The ship was crewed by three Greek and 19 Filipino sailors.
Also on Thursday, pirates attacked another ship, MV Nele Maersk, a Danish-flagged container ship. The attack took place not far from where the crude oil tanker, BW Lion, was attacked three days earlier. Neither of the attacks succeeded.
Yet another attack took place in the southern part of the Somali Basin. Automatic weapons were fired on the MV Felicitas Rickmers, a container ship.
The latest round of hijacking means Somali pirates are holding 11 ships with more than 200 people being kept as hostages, including a British couple seized from their personal yacht late last month.
The high-seas hijackings have increased after the recent end of the monsoon season despite an international armada of warships deployed by the United States, the European Union, NATO, Japan, South Korea and China to patrol the region. U.S. drones launched from nearby Seychelles are also patrolling for pirates.
By employing evasive manoeuvres and other anti-piracy measures, the ship also managed to evade the attack. Pirates opened fire but no casualties were reported and the ship managed to outrun the pirates.
And not done yet, the Pirates also hijacked a Panamanian-flagged ship with 18 crew members off the east coast of Africa, the latest in an increasing number of attacks.
A group of Somali businessmen called the Juba General Trading Company had hired the al-Mizan to carry cargo from the United Arab Emirates to Mogadishu, said, head of the consortium, Abdirisaq Abdulkadir
Abdulkadir said there are 15 Indians, two Pakistanis and a Somali on board. He denied media reports that the ship is carrying weapons.
“The ship was carrying 3,000 tons of general business materials,” he said. “It set out from Dubai on the 24th of October. We were expecting it on the 6th or 7th of this month but it did not arrive.”
When the consortium called the ship, he said, a pirate answered the phone and said it had been hijacked.
A man who answered a satellite phone number provided by Abdulkadir on Tuesday identified himself as a pirate and said the bandits were demanding a $3 million ransom. The man refused to give his name for fear of arrest. He said the ship was captured 10 days ago about 60 miles off the Somali coast.