Gunmen have hijacked a vessel off the lawless coast of Somalia, the owner of the cargo on board has said, raising fears of a resurgence in piracy in Somali waters after a several-month lull.
The United Arab Emirates-flagged MV Veesham I and its crew of 12 were seized near Adale, 95 kms northeast of Mogadishu on Thursday, as it sailed to Dubai from the Somali port of El-Maan, he said.
"The captain told me that gunmen hijacked his ship around the Adale coast and forced him to sail to an unknown destination," said Abdulrahman Olow, the Somali businessman who chartered the Veesham to carry a load of charcoal.
"We are not aware of its location but perhaps it is somewhere deep inside Indian Ocean," he said.
"I think the hijackers have links with the pirates who were hunting ships off the Somali coast."
"We thought the era of hijackers had ended but this shows us that there still pirates in our waters," Olow said on Friday.
In the port city of Mombasa in neighbouring Kenya, a maritime official confirmed the hijacking.
"Six Somali gunmen are holding captive MV Veesham I off the Somali coast," said Andrew Mwangura of the Seafarers' Assistance Programme.
"This is the most recent pirate incident in Somali waters since the Somali Islamic militia seized control of the capital Mogadishu and much of the south of the country in June this year," he said.