Somali pirates have hijacked a Malaysian vessel west of the Maldives on Friday, according to reports from the EU’s anti-piracy force, days before a pair of dinghies containing 10 Somali nationals were discovered stranded near islands in the country’s south.
The EU’s Operation Atalanta taskforce reported that the ‘Albedo’ was hijacked 900 nautical miles east of the Somali capital of Mogadishu in the early hours of November 26. The vessel was carrying containers and was bound for Mombasa from Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to the Vesseltracker website.
The crew consist of 23 people from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Iran. The EU taskforce’s report did not say whether the ‘Albedo’ crew were being held hostage, however it noted that Somali pirates are currently holding 22 vessels with 521 hostages.
Two days (November 28) after the taking of the Albedo, a dinghy containing seven Somali nationals was brought ashore after it was discovered in Gnaviyani Atoll. The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) discovered a bullet shell during a search of the vessel.
On November 30, a second dinghy containing three Somali nationals was discovered by a Maldivian fishing near Thinadhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll.
The captain of the fishing boat Mohamed Hussain told Minivan News that one of the men had a stab wound in his neck and was seriously injured.
During an MNDF press conference yesterday, Brigadier General Zakariyya Mansoor said that Somali nationals found in Maldivian waters recently were potentially not castaways, as they may have appeared.
“They pretend to be out fishing when they lose contact with their main vessel,” he explained.
”They are actually coming from a [mothership] used for hijacking yachts and cargo ships,” said Mansoor. ”When they lose contact with the main ship they shutdown their engine to save diesel until they find land.”
Mansoor noted that many of the ‘castaways’ found in the Maldivian waters had both diesel and food, and that their physical condition was not weak.
”Although piracy decreases during this season because of rough seas, when the sea is calm, more than 400 to 500 such boats will be active in these waters,” said Mansoor.
He advised fisherman not to get too close to anonymous boats without first informing the island offices and the MNDF.
”Without doubt they are very dangerous,” he said.
Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed said the government was working with their Somali counterparts to repatriate Somali nationals stranded in the Maldives, but added that this was difficult because of the “logistics and funds required.”
“At the moment [the arrivals] are alarming but not a direct threat,” Dr Shaheed said. “They are at the outer limits of their reach at the moment, but their reach is increasing.”
According to the ICC Commercial Crime Service, suspected Somali pirate vessels have been reported attacking vessels off the Seychelles and west of the Maldives.
“Pirates use ocean going vessels ‘mother vessels’ to sail far from Somali coast to attack and hijack passing vessels. Smaller skiffs are launched from the pirate “mother vessel” to attack passing merchant vessels, the ICC reported. “Pirates are heavily armed with automatic weapons and RPG launchers.”