Nine hostages missing as Somalia security forces rescue cargo ship

MSV Al Kausar

Somalia security forces have rescued an Indian cargo ship which was hijacked by Somali pirates on April 1 but nine members of the 11-crew are missing, a regional maritime official said on Tuesday.

John Steed, the regional manager of “Oceans beyond Piracy’’ an NGO, said the hostages were believed to be held between the vicinity of Hobyo and Haradhere in central Somalia.

“The Indian ship was released by Somalia security forces but nine of the 11 crew members are missing having been taken ashore by the pirates.

“The vessel is sailing away,’’ Steed told newsmen.

The pirating of the Indian dhow came after the fuel tanker, Aris 13, was held for four days by armed pirates.

The Indian ship, Al Kausar was one of three foreign vessels to be hijacked after a five-year lull.

“We haven’t established where the hostages were taken,” Steed said, noting that Somali pirates are holding 17 hostages from Iran and India.

Steed noted that the pirates were holding 17 hostages at the moment.

According to him, eight are Iranians while nine are Indians, adding that efforts are underway to secure their release.

Al Kausar was chartered by a Somali businessman and was carrying commercial goods.

The vessel which was en route from Dubai, the United Arab Emirates to Bosasso in Somalia was hijacked in the vicinity of Socotra (Island).

The release of the Indian vessel came after sailors from Indian and Chinese Navies on Sunday freed a Tuvalu-registered vessel which had been boarded by pirates, while the vessel had 19 crew members.

Somali pirates tend to be well armed with automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenade (RPG) and sometimes use skiffs launched from mother vessels, which may be hijacked fishing vessels or dhows, to conduct attacks far from the Somali coast.

Maritime experts say lack of economic opportunities and the prevalence of illegal fishing are pushing more Somalis to turn to piracy.

They added that some pirates were involved partly as a form of protest or partly because they see no other options.