Pirates free tanker and Sri Lankan crew
MOGADISHU: Somali pirates on Thursday handed over an oil tanker and eight Sri Lankan hostages captured just days ago, the Oceans Beyond Piracy said, bringing to a close the first such attack since 2012.
“The Puntland maritime police force freed the ship. They made (the pirates) an offer they couldn’t refuse and the pirates have left,” said John Steed, a former British army officer with the non-governmental organisation, who has spent years negotiating the release of piracy hostages.
Earlier on Thursday, the Puntland coastguard had threatened to use force if the talks to release the vessel failed.
Armed attackers seized the Aris 13 on Monday as it made its way from Djibouti to Mogadishu, the first hijacking of a large merchant vessel by Somali pirates since 2012.
Steed said the pirates had left the Aris 13 ship, which was under control of the coast guard and on its way to the port city of Bossaso in the semi-autonomous Puntland region, on the northeastern tip of Somalia.
Abdirahman Mohamud Hassan, the director general of the Puntland maritime force, said earlier that a regional governor, who was not named, had been appointed to negotiate with the pirates.
The successful release came after a fierce firefight between the coast guard and armed men aboard a boat believed to be taking food and provisions to the hijacked tanker.
“Our forces were doing a normal routine patrolling around the area when they came under gunfire from these gunmen who were onboard a small skiff and they returned fire,” said Hassan.