25th August 2020
Somali pirates hijacked a Panama-flagged ship on Wednesday night, according to regional officials on Thursday.
The ship was travelling from the United Arab Emirates to Mogadishu port when it appeared to develop mechanical problems, said Musse Salah, the governor of Gardafu region in the semi-autonomous northern region of Puntland.
A total of six pirates then hijacked the vessel.
It is the first successful hijacking attempt by pirates in the region since 2017. At the height of their power in 2011, Somali pirates launched 237 attacks off the coast of Somalia, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
Jay Bahadur, a Somali piracy expert who was previously head of a United Nations group of experts enforcing an arms embargo on Somalia, said that being a pirate and a member of the Somali police had not historically been mutually exclusive.
He said it appeared that a group of men wearing police uniforms had boarded the ship, robbed the crew and taken the weapons of a private security team on board.
The man reported to be the ringleader of the attack on the Aegean II had repeated phone contact with another pirate who was part of a group that carried out Somalia’s last hijacking in 2017, he added. The contact happened in the months prior to the 2017 hijacking.
“If it was indeed the police, it bears resemblance to one of the earliest Somali piracy incidents, when members of the Puntland coast guard hijacked the boat they were supposed to be guarding,” he said.
The EU force said in a statement that the Aegean II had originally altered its course due to a damaged hull, and that after local police had boarded it, “there had been certain incidents on board the vessel”.
“At this point, it cannot be classified as a maritime security incident, but a more detailed investigation is in progress,” the statement said, noting that the ship’s progress was being closely monitored by the naval force.