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Somali pirates hijack first commercial ship since 2012

Somali pirates hijack first commercial ship since 2012

Naval forces from the semiautonomous state of Puntland and the pirates had clashed earlier Thursday after the pirates opened fire. It came as a surprise to the global shipping industry as worldwide patrols had suppressed pirate hijackings for several years.

Authorities were then still trying to determine whether the gunmen, who have not given any details about the size of the ransom, were organised pirates or fisherman whose equipment was destroyed by illegal fishing vessels, as they claimed to be to a local official.

Pirate boats were spotted by Somalian navy forces cruising towards the tanker believed to be reinforcing the bandits.

The pirates drained the tanks of the tanker and stole all the fuel on board, but also demanded for ransom to release the vessel. "We pulled our forces back and so the pirates went away", said Abdirahman Mohamud Hassan, the director general of the maritime police force for Somalia's semi-autonomous northern region of Puntland.

The European Union anti-piracy naval force made contact with the ship's captain on Wednesday and he confirmed the crew was being held hostage on board the ship, but no one had been killed.

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The tanker, which was en route from Djibouti to the Somali capital, Mogadishu, was seized on Monday with eight Sri Lankan crew members on board.

The Aris 13 on Monday reported being approached by two skiffs, John Steed with the organization Oceans Beyond Piracy said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera told during a media conference held in Colombo today that Sri Lankan Ambassador to Ethiopia is engaged in talks with the Somali government in order to release the Sri Lankans ship crew. Pirates have traditionally been wary of tangling with Somalia's powerful businessmen. However, they are often harassed by illegal fisherman and large foreign trawlers off the country's north coast.

Though anti-piracy measures ended attacks on commercial vessels, fishing boats have continued to face attacks.

A U.N. shipping database shows the Aris 13 is owned by Armi Shipping SA, whose address is listed in care of Aurora Ship Management FZE, a company based in the United Arab Emirates.

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