Somali security forces have taken over an Indian-owned commercial boat held by Somali pirates during an operation overnight, officials said.
The mayor of Hobyo, Abdullahi Ahmed Ali, told VOA’s Somali service that his forces seized the boat after they surrounded the vessel off the coast of Hin-Barwaaqo village, south of Hobyo.
He said the pirates abandoned the boat after elders warned that security forces were approaching and planning to storm the vessel. Pirates seized the boat, MSV Al Kausar, earlier this month.
Mayor Ali said only two of the crew members were found on board the boat and authorities believe the remaining nine sailors were moved to land by the pirates.
Officials said security forces are pursuing the pirates who are holding the Indian sailors hostage.
“They took the sailors to Qarafaow village; we exchanged gunfire, we have seized a vehicle carrying food and supplies for the pirates,” Ali said.
MSV Al Kausar and its crew members were seized in the Indian Ocean en route to the southern port town of Kismayo.
The boat was chartered by a Somali businessman and was carrying commercial goods.
Meanwhile on Sunday, Indian and Chinese sailors freed a cargo ship after pirates briefly seized the vessel. The incident marked the fifth pirate attack this year off the Somali coast.
Security officials say piracy is reemerging in Somali waters following an increase in illegal fishing.
The former director of intelligence in Somalia’s Puntland region, Abdi Hassan Hussein, told VOA organized groups are preparing to conduct attacks.
“There are more than eight groups who want to engage piracy activities; some of them already went into the sea, some are in preparation and some have already carried out attacks,” Hussein told VOA Somali.
At their peak in the early 2010’s, Somali pirate gangs were responsible for hundreds of attacks on commercial ships traveling in the Gulf of Aden, the western Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.
In all of 2016, the International Maritime Bureau recorded only two pirate attacks near Somalia, neither of which resulted in a hijacking.