TANZANIA (eTN) – As Somali piracy continues terrorizing countries bordering the east coast of the Indian Ocean, seven armed pirates, believed to be Somalis, have been apprehended by the Tanzanian army in their bid to hijack an oil exploration ship.
The pirates were captured Monday night this week after attacking an oil prospecting ship, Sam-S-All Good, some 40 kilometers northeast of the tourist island of Mafia off the Tanzanian coast. This week’s incident brings to a total of 18 pirates captured on the Tanzanian coast since the launching of joint operations between African states, the US, and European states to curb Somali piracy along the eastern coast of the Indian Ocean.
The pirates were armed with 16 rounds of sub-machine gun ammunition and some doses of pain killers, spokesperson for Tanzanian army Colonel Kapambala Mgawe said.
Mgawe said the ship operated by Brazilian Petroleum Company Petrobras sent a distress alarm to the Tanzanian military patrol boats as the seven pirates in a small boat had attacked it with weapons. The soldiers returned fire and managed to subdue and arrest the pirates after a battle that lasted for over 20 minutes, forcing the pirates to throw their weapons into the water with hands up.
“The two patrol ships that were in the area with Tanzanian troops, responded to the distress call from the oil prospecting ship and went to provide assistance and protection,” he said.
On arrival at the scene, the soldiers used search lights and noticed suspicious people walking up and down the ship brandishing guns. The boat that the suspected pirates were using is believed to have drifted off, after they climbed onboard the oil prospecting ship.
“Our navy men opened fire in the air as a warning but the pirates did not surrender and instead fired directly at the soldiers. There was exchange of fire, the pirates were overpowered, and decided to surrender by throwing their weapons in the sea and raised up their arms,” Col. Mgawe said.
He said the soldiers arrested the pirates by tying them up with a rope, with one pirate injured in his right thigh, during the exchange of fire.
Tanzanian government had ordered the army to escort ships searching for oil and gas off the territorial waters to protect them from Somali pirates, who are suspected of kidnapping expatriate workers on exploration ships for hefty ransoms.
Piracy incidents rocked neighboring Kenya, following the separate abductions of two European women in Kenya’s lush tourist beach areas in less than one month. The kidnappers escaped by speedboat to Somalia’s southern rebel-controlled tip that borders Kenya’s northern border.