European Naval Force Captures Suspected Pirates After Attack on Oil Tanker

A European naval force captured six suspected pirates on Friday. They had opened fire on an oil tanker traveling through the Gulf of Aden. Officials said this attack is likely part of an increasing number of piracy incidents coming from Somalia.

The attack targeted the Marshall Islands-flagged Chrystal Arctic. Yemen’s Houthi rebels have also been attacking ships in the Red Sea and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. These assaults are slowing down commercial traffic in the area, affecting routes to the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea.

The pirates fired at the Chrystal Arctic from a small ship equipped with weapons and ladders. They carried Kalashnikov-style rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, according to the UK Maritime Trade Operations center.

The tanker’s onboard security team returned fire, causing the pirates to abandon their attempt to seize the vessel. The Chrystal Arctic continued its journey safely, with no harm to its crew.

A European Union naval force, Operation Atalanta, detained six suspected pirates a few hours after the attack. The operation took place in the Gulf of Aden. The suspects were captured from their small boat due to its unsafe condition.

While piracy off the Somali coast had decreased after 2011, there has been a rise in incidents recently. In the first quarter of 2024, there were five reported piracy incidents off Somalia, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

The bureau warned of Somali pirates demonstrating increased capabilities. They’re now targeting vessels at greater distances from the Somali coast. Hijacked dhows and fishing vessels are being used as mother ships to launch attacks.

In March, the Indian navy detained dozens of pirates who had seized a bulk carrier and its 17 crew members hostage. In April, pirates released 23 crew members of the Bangladesh-flagged cargo carrier MV Abdullah after seizing the vessel. The terms of the release are not immediately known.

The Houthi campaign, which started in November, is also targeting shipping. This campaign is part of their pressure tactics to influence the Israel-Hamas conflict in the Gaza Strip.

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