Somali officials say pirates have hijacked an oil tanker in the Indian Ocean and guided it to the coast of Puntland region. Sources tell VOA's Somali service that the ship is believed to be a merchant tanker flying the flag of the United Arab Emirates.
Regional officials say they are still assessing the circumstances of the hijack, which took place Monday. Sources said at least eight suspected pirates were involved in the attack, adding that the ship moved toward the coast of Somalia in the vicinity of the coastal town Ras Asayr.
Piracy off the coast of Somalia has declined in the last three years. Last year, suspected pirates hijacked two boats — one Yemeni and one Iranian boat — thought to be fishing illegally.
However, it has been several years since Somali pirates successfully hijacked a merchant ship.
At the height of the hijacking crisis in 2010-11, Somali pirates were attacking dozens of ships each month and receiving multi-million-dollar ransoms to release hijacked vessels and their crews.
The piracy off the Horn of Africa had an economic impact of $7 billion, with more than 1,000 hostages taken. The attacks dropped off following a coordinated international response that included naval forces from NATO, the European Union, the United States and other independent nations.
International maritime groups warned last year against the return of piracy off the coast of Somalia because of increased illegal fishing activity in Somali waters.