Houthi-Led Assaults Revive Piracy Surge off Somalia’s Coast

Incursions by Iran-backed Houthi insurgents in the Red Sea have reignited piracy operations in Somalia, with criminal factions proliferating in both quantity and strength, according to a European naval commander.

The Yemen-based Houthis commenced targeting ships in the Red Sea last year to exert pressure on Israel and its allies amid the Gaza Strip conflict.

Their offensive has disrupted global shipping, compelling many vessels to circumnavigate southern Africa, significantly increasing carbon emissions and escalating freight costs as ships endure prolonged voyages to transport the same cargo.

“Pirates perceive an opportunity due to the presence of Houthis,” noted Vice Admiral Ignacio Villanueva, commanding an EU mission tasked with curbing piracy. “They are pushing the limits and capabilities of Western and international operations.”

A tactic employed by pirates involves hijacking smaller vessels like skiffs or dhows, traveling approximately ten days into the Indian Ocean to target larger ships, Villanueva disclosed on July 1. Approximately ten recent attacks targeted large vessels, with ransom paid only once, he added.

The escalating attacks are orchestrated by groups “well armed, organized, and larger in numbers” than ever before, Villanueva stated.

“In one attack, we encountered 25 or 30 pirates,” he elaborated. “They are highly coordinated, equipped with satellite phones and heavy weaponry.”

Since November, there have been 30 attacks on commercial vessels, fishing boats, and dhows. An incident in December involved hostage-taking aboard the Malta-flagged MV Ruen, with Indian, Japanese, and Spanish warships rescuing its 18 crew members. This marked the first successful hijacking off Somalia’s coast since 2017, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

Piracy emerged during Somalia’s civil war in the early 1990s. Incidents escalated in the early 2000s amid conflict sparked by Ethiopian forces overthrowing an Islamist administration. The peak occurred in 2011, with 237 incidents, 32 vessels held, and 736 hostages, per EU Naval Force data.

In the past month, Houthi rebels conducted the highest number of attacks on commercial ships in 2024, targeting 16 vessels, as reported by naval forces in the region.

Leave a Comment

Related Articles

English News

Facebook Feed

Our YouTube Channel