Somali pirates hijack first commercial ship since 2012

BOSASO, Puntland- The government of Somalia's semi-autonomous region of Puntland is reported to be planning to rescue the hijacked Sri-Lankan flagged vessel MT Aris 13 and crew members from suspected local pirates in Alula district, Garowe Online reports.

Ahmed said the Puntland naval forces had been dispatched to the area not to free the ship by force but to cut off any supplies to the pirates.

Earlier on Thursday the Puntland coastguard had threatened to use force if the talks to convince the pirates to release the vessel failed.

The Master of the hijacked bunker tanker Aris 13 succeeded to get in contact with EU Naval Force, which is now operating in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia.

The tanker was forced to change course and head toward Puntland.

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Naval forces off the coast of Somalia have exchanged gunfire with armed men on board a hijacked oil tanker after trying to intercept a boat believed to be carrying supplies, officials said.

Village elders of Alula said the pirates had not made clear demands, but claimed to be driven by anger over illegal fishing.

In their heyday five years ago, Somali pirates launched 237 attacks off the coast of Somalia in 2011, the International Maritime Bureau says, and held hundreds of hostages.

The gunmen are demanding a ransom to release the ship and its Sri Lankan crew, said the EU Naval Force.

The oil tanker was seized on Monday while en route from Djibouti to the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

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"After we came to know that the Somali traders hired the oil tanker, we released it without a ransom", pirate Abdullahi told Reuters.

"The ship and crew will remain safe as long as no one attacks them", Hussein said by phone from an undisclosed location in northern Somalia.

The 1,800 deadweight tonne Aris 13 is owned by Panama company Armi Shipping and managed by Aurora Ship Management in the United Arab Emirates, according to the Equasis shipping data website managed by the French transport ministry. 'Foreign fishermen destroyed their livelihoods and deprived them of proper fishing'.

John Steed, regional manager of the watchdog group Oceans Without Piracy, told VOA, "They [the pirates] were given an offer they could not refuse - live or die".

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