Somali pirates who had seized an Indian cargo dhow off the Somali waters have taken the vessel to El-Hur, near the port of Hobyo in the semi-autonomous Galmudug state, a pirate leader told Reuters on Tuesday.
Eleven crew members were on board the hijacked dhow.
Aw Kombe also said the pirates were in touch with businessmen in Kismayu over releasing the vessel, Al Kausar.
“The traders want the dhow be released without ransom but my friends say they may not release without at least some cash,” he added. “They are still discussing.”
The identity and origin of the hijackers was disputed, however. A Galmudug state official said the pirates came from northern Somalia’s semi-autonomous state of Puntland while Kombe, a Puntland pirate leader, put the blame on “our friends from Galmudug state”.
The Al Kausar was commandeered in the vicinity of Socotra Island while en route from Dubai to Puntland’s port of Bosasso, according to United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which coordinates shipping in the Gulf of Aden area.
Ship owners have become less wary of piracy after a long period of calm off the Horn of Africa, experts say, and some have started using a riskier route known as the Socotra Gap, between Somalia and Socotra Island, to save time and costs.
“The pirates who hijacked the dhow are from Puntland,” said a government official in Galmudug state, who did not want to be named because he was not authorized to speak on the incident.
Local elders are trying to negotiate with the pirates to secure the release of the crew and the boat, said Ahmed Mohamed, an official with the Somali state of Galmudug. Somali pirates often release boats chartered by Somali businessmen without ransom.
The attack on the small ship happened Saturday as the vessel passed through the narrow channel between Yemen’s Socotra Island and the Somali coast, said Graeme Gibbon Brooks, CEO of Dryad Maritime, a shipping security firm. He said the pirates were taking the vessel to the Eyl area of northern Somalia.
Lt. Ian McConnaughey, a spokesman for the US Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain, said sailors there are “aware of the reports and we are monitoring the situation.” The 5th Fleet oversees regional anti-piracy efforts.
Piracy off Somalia’s coast was once a serious threat to the global shipping industry. It has lessened in recent years after an international effort to patrol near the country, whose weak central government has been trying to assert itself after a quarter-century of conflict. Since then, concerns about piracy off Africa’s coast have largely shifted to the West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea on the Atlantic Ocean.
But frustrations have been rising among Somali fishermen, including former pirates, at what they say are foreign fishermen illegally fishing in local waters.
In March, Somali pirates hijacked the Comoros-flagged oil tanker Aris 13, marking the first such seizure of a large commercial vessel since 2012. They later released the vessel and its Sri Lankan crew without conditions, Somali officials said at the time.
Pirates in late March also seized a fishing trawler, which police warned could be used for further piracy.