Somali Pirates Take Over Panama-Flagged Ship From UAE, Official Says

Somali pirates have hijacked a Panama-flagged ship that encountered mechanical issues on a trip to the capital Mogadishu from the United Arab Emirates, a regional official told Reuters.

Musse Salah, the governor of the Gardafu region in the semi-autonomous northern region of Puntland, told the outlet that the vessel was attacked Wednesday night by six pirates. The number, nationalities and condition of crewmembers were not yet clear, though he said negotiations had begun for their release.

Maritime movements appeared to indicate that the tanker Aegean II was the ship that had been seized. Contacted by Newsweek, ship-tracking service Marine Traffic confirmed that Aegean II "indeed seems to be the vessel" involved and posted a statement regarding the incident.

Piracy has plagued the strategic waters off of Somalia for much of the 21st century, becoming of international concern as the country's civil war worsened in the 2000s. In recent years, however, improvements in security protocols and an international task force have drastically reduced the number of incidents, making Wednesday's attack potentially the first successful hijacking since 2017.

The attack comes days after Islamist militant group Al-Shabab, an affiliate of Al-Qaeda, launched a deadly gun and bomb attack at a popular seaside hotel in Mogadishu. At least 15 were killed and more than two dozen wounded in a strike that dealt a blow to the country's stabilization efforts as well a U.S.-led military campaign boosted under President Donald Trump.

For the UAE, the piracy incident would mean its second ship seized after leaving the country in just three days. Iran announced on Monday that its maritime authorities had intercepted a UAE vessel that illegally entered Iranian waters on the same day UAE coast guard personnel opened fire on Iranian fishermen, reportedly killing two of them.

This is a developing news story. More information will be added as it becomes available.

somali, coast, ships
Cargo ships wait to be load up off the coast of the Port of Berbera in Somaliland on December 5, 2015. Piracy plagued the waters off of Somalia for much of the 21st century but international security efforts have drastically decreased the number of incidents, with no official reports of hijacking since 2017. ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER/AFP/Getty Images