Monday, September 01, 2008
Somali pirates are taking a hijacked Malaysian tanker to their coastal base, where gunmen are already holding six vessels for ransom, a local official said on Sunday. The Bunga Melati 5 was carrying 30,000 tonnes of petrochemicals to Singapore from Saudi Arabia when it was seized on Friday in the Gulf of Aden. Pirates from Somalia have hijacked at least 30 ships in the area so far this year, making the waters off the Horn of Africa nation the most dangerous in the world. 'The Malaysian ship is being sailed towards Eyl where another six vessels are held,' Abdulqadir Muse Yusuf, assistant minister for fisheries in the northern Puntland region, told reporters. He accused villagers in Alula, Bargal and Eyl of providing the pirates with supplies and said radio operators on the coast were also helping the gangs. 'The pirates are increasing dramatically in numbers and in strength,' Yusuf said. The Bunga Melati 5, which is owned by Malaysian national carrier MISC, had 36 Malaysians and five Filipinos on board.
MT Bunga Melati 5MISC said the tanker had been travelling 'within the vicinity' of a security corridor set up last week by a multinational anti-terrorism task force in response to the sharp rise in attacks. MISC said coalition naval forces in the area had been alerted but were unable to stop the hijacking because the safety of the crew onboard the Malaysian ship was the priority. Lawlessness is spreading fast onshore as Somalia collapses into the worst fighting for two nearly decades. That is fuelling a wave of piracy that increasingly threatens vessels using the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's most important waterways. Nearly 20,000 ships pass through the Gulf of Aden each year, heading to and from the Suez Canal. Last week, Somali gunmen seized a record four ships in 48 hours, and are now holding about 130 crew hostage on at least nine vessels from Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, Germany, Nigeria and Iran.