Somali pirates hijack Chinese ship
STUTTGART, Germany — Extending their reach beyond the waters of the Gulf of Aden, Somali pirates hijacked a Chinese vessel Monday some 800 miles off the failed state’s coastline.
The attack occurred 400 miles northeast of the Seychelles, where U.S. Africa Command recently deployed unmanned aerial vehicles in support of Ocean Look — a surveillance and reconnaissance mission aimed at deterring piracy off the Seychelles’ shores.
However, Monday’s hijacking occurred outside of the internationally recommended transit corridor, where a flotilla of international warships is on patrol, according to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
Following a report of the attack, the European Union’s anti-piracy mission — EU NAVFOR — launched one of its aircraft to investigate the scene.
An EU Maritime Patrol Aircraft located the ship, which was being towed by two pirate skiffs toward Somalia, EU NAVFOR reported.
It’s the farthest the pirates have been seen offshore, said Cmdr. John Harbour, a spokesman for the EU anti-piracy effort.
"We’re seeing this because we’ve been very successful with our patrols."
Because of the increased military presence in the recommended transit route, the pirates are now being forced to travel into other waters to seek out targets, Harbour said.
The pirates took 25 hostages in the attack, according to EU NAVFOR, which consists of units from Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands and Spain.
Other ongoing anti-piracy missions off Somalia’s coast include Combined Task Force-151, which includes the U.S. Navy’s 5th fleet, and NATO’s Allied Protector mission.
Improving weather conditions is one of the factors that has enabled the pirates to stretch farther beyond Somalia’s coastline.
"The monsoon season is ending so the seas are settling down. The water is getting calmer and they’re able to get out more now," said Cmdr. Chris Sims, a U.S. Naval Forces Central Command spokesman.
The Chinese ship was carrying coal and was traveling from South Africa to India when the attack occurred, according to Chinese state media.
On Tuesday, China’s foreign minister said efforts would be made to rescue the crew.
Other Chinese ships have been advised to avoid the area where the attack occurred, according Xinhua news agency.
The Chinese bulk carrier was not registered with the Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa, which coordinates with merchant vessels transiting the region as part of an effort to reduce attacks, according to the EU mission.