Indian ship freed in Somalia, nine hostages missing

Indo Asian News Service

Nairobi, April 11 (IANS) Somalia security forces have rescued an Indian cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates on April 1 but nine of the 11 crew members are missing, a maritime official said on Tuesday.

John Steed, the regional manager of not for profit group Oceans Beyond Piracy, said the hostages are believed to be held between the vicinity of Hobyo and Haradhere in central Somalia.

"The Indian ship was released by Somalia security forces on Monday night but nine of the 11 crew members are missing, having been taken ashore by the pirates. The vessel is sailing away," Steed told Xinhua by telephone.

The pirating of the Indian dhow came after the fuel tanker, Aris 13, was held for four days by armed pirates. The Indian ship, Al Kausar, was one of three foreign vessels to be hijacked after a five-year lull.

"We haven't established where the hostages were taken," said Steed, noting that Somali pirates were holding 17 hostages from Iran and India.

"The pirates are holding 17 hostages at the moment. Eight are Iranians while nine are Indians," he said, adding that efforts were on to secure their release.

Al Kausar was chartered by a Somali businessman and was carrying commercial goods.

The vessel, which was en route from Dubai to Bosasso in Somalia, was hijacked in the vicinity of Socotra (Island).

The release of the Indian vessel comes after sailors from Indian and Chinese Navies on Sunday freed a Tuvalu-registered vessel which had been boarded by pirates. The vessel had 19 crew members.

Somali pirates tend to be well armed with automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenade (RPG) and sometimes use skiffs launched from mother vessels, which may be hijacked fishing vessels or dhows, to conduct attacks far from the Somali coast.

Maritime experts said lack of economic opportunities and the prevalence of illegal fishing were pushing more Somalis to turn to piracy.

--IANS

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