Dubai, Apr 23: Seven pirates look set to be put to death for hijacking a Dubai-flagged cargo ship. Somali soldiers stormed and recaptured the Al-Khaleej yesterday, following a bloody shootout. The pirates had seized control of the ship on Monday, four miles from the northeast Puntland town Bosasso, off the Horn of Africa.
“Our troops stormed onto the Al-Khaleej and engaged the pirates. There was brief fighting before they defeated them,” said Abdirizak Hared, the mayor of Bosasso port. The ship was eventually secured in the Gulf of Aden. Three pirates and a soldier were wounded in the incident, but the 16 crew members were released unharmed.
They had been transporting food and new cars for sale in Somalia from the UAE, when the ship was raided on route to Bosasso. A witness yesterday reported seeing the seven pirates shackled in chains, three of them bleeding, being led away by police. They were taken to a waiting van and driven off under tight security from the port. The ship, and cars on it, showed bullet marks.
Speaking after the incident, Puntland security minister, Abdullahi Said Samatar, said: “We arrested seven pirates. Three of them were wounded during the shootout. We will charge them. The penalty for piracy in our country is death. They will be killed.”
He said 110 security officers had taken part in the operation to storm the UAE-owned vessel which was contracted by a Somali trader. “Puntland has no means to arrest such pirates but after we failed to get any international help we were forced to storm the ship that was bringing in suppliers to Bosasso in order to free it,” he added.
Somalia has had no effective central government for more than 17 years, and its waters are considered to be among the most dangerous for shipping in the world.
Last year more than 25 ships were seized by pirates in Somali coastal waters, despite US navy patrols. They even attacked a Japanese oil tanker on Monday. The International Maritime Bureau advises merchant ships to stay at least 200 nautical miles out from the Somali coast.
Another ship from the UAE, the MV Infinity Marine 1, is still missing after disappearing off the country’s coast last June - there has been no word of the 20 crew on board. And the MV Al Marjan, which sailed from Dubai with 22 Asian crew, was hijacked by Somali pirates in October last year. The ship and crew were released after six weeks in captivity, reportedly after a ransom was paid.