Pirates release oil tanker and its crew without ransom

ARIS-13 being held at anchor-off-the northern coast of Puntland. Photo: EUNAVFOR|March 14, 2017
ARIS-13 being held at anchor-off-the northern coast of Puntland. Photo: EUNAVFOR|March 14, 2017

Somali pirates, who hijacked the oil tanker Aris 13 on 13th this month, have released it without receiving a ransom.

The release came hours after the pirates and naval forces of the semi-autonomous regional state, Puntland exchanged gunfire over a boat believed to be carrying supplies to the hijackers.

Puntland officials say the release occurred following negotiations by local elders and officials with the pirates.

“There has been discussion going on after the gunfight of this afternoon … We pulled our forces back, and so the pirates went away,” said Abdirahman Mohamud Hassan, the director general of the maritime police force for Puntland.

According to John Steed, regional manager of the watchdog group Oceans Without Piracy, the pirates were given an offer they could not refuse – live or die. “They were surrounded [with] nowhere to go, so pragmatism won in the end,” he was quoted as saying to VOA.

Village elders in Alula where the hijacked vessel first docked, said the pirates had not made clear demands, but claimed to be driven by anger over illegal fishing.

“These are fishermen who are infuriated with the illegal fishing off their coasts. They desperately need to show their grievances by seizing the boat,” said Abdiwahab Ahmed, an elder in Alula.

The Aris 13, manned by eight Sri Lankan sailors, was carrying fuel from Djibouti to Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, when it was approached by men in two skiffs and hijacked it on Monday off the coast of Somalia.

The Comoros-flagged tanker is owned by Armi Shipping SA and is operated by Aurora Ship Management, both based in the United Arab Emirates.

It is the first hijack off Somalia’s coast since 2012. Since 2012, although piracy has been largely contained, Somali pirates have continued to attempt to hijack ships, but less frequently.

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