Somali forces have recovered the Al Kausar, an Indian dhow that was seized by pirates on March 31 near Socotra Island. However, local sources informed VOA that only two of the crew were found aboard, and the other eight (or nine) crewmembers are believed to have been abducted.
“We have the boat and two of the crew members but eight other members of the crew are still missing because the pirates took them off the boat,” said Abdulahi Ahmed Ali, a commissioner for the Hobyo region.
Ali told VOA that elders had warned the pirates of approaching security forces, giving the kidnappers time to flee. He said that they had left for the village of Qarafaow, inland and southwest from Hobyo.
The dhow was reportedly carrying goods to Bosaso, a city in the autonomous state of Puntland, on behalf of Somali merchants in Kismayo. Last week, a pirate leader identified as Aw Kombe told Reuters that the hijackers were still negotiating with the merchants over the return of the vessel. "The traders want the dhow released without ransom but my friends say they will not release it without at least some cash," he said.
Somali piracy appears to be on the rebound, fueled by poverty and enabled by clan relationships, weak governance and (potentially) foreign investment. Security analysts Stratfor note reports that that Yemeni criminal financiers are funneling arms and funds to Somali pirate gangs, the kind of backing that clans raised domestically during the peak years of pirate activity. So far, many of the attacks have been restricted to small dhows, and Stratfor suggests that armed maritime security contractors and naval patrols – which now include assets from India, China, Spain and Iran, among others – will help to keep down the incidence of attacks on international merchant shipping.
As an illustration, on Sunday a Chinese navy vessel and an Indian Navy helicopter thwarted a hijacking of the bulker OS 35 off the coast of Yemen. “The fleet vessel Yulin set out for the area immediately and rescue operation started early morning on 9 April. Under the cover of helicopters, special force members of the navy boarded the ship and rescued 19 crew members on broad. Both the ship and the crew members are safe now,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Sunday. Hua’s statement did not mention the Indian Navy's role, sparking a minor disagreement as the two navies sought credit for the interdiction.