NAIROBI – Reuters
Pirates have hijacked an oil tanker with eight Sri Lankan crew onboard, a Somali official said on March 14, the first time they have successfully taken a commercial ship since 2012.
The Aris 13 sent a distress call on March 13, turned off its tracking system and altered course for the Somali port town of Alula, said John Steed of the aid group Oceans Beyond Piracy.
“The pirates hijacked the oil tanker and they brought it near Alula,” Mohamud Ahmed Eynab, the district commissioner for Alula, told Reuters on March 14 by phone. Pirates in the town confirmed they were expecting the ship.
The tanker was believed to have eight crew on board, said Steed, an expert on piracy who is in contact with naval forces tracking the ship.
“The ship reported it was being followed by two skiffs in the afternoon of March 13. Then it disappeared,” he told Reuters.
Aircraft from regional naval force EU Navfor were flying overhead to track the ship’s progress and to try to determine what was happening, he said.
The Sri Lankan government said it had eight Sri Lankan crew onboard and flew a flag from the Comoros islands.
Data from Reuters systems showed it made a sharp about turn just after it passed the Horn of Africa on its voyage from Djibouti to Mogadishu.