Somali pirates have captured a dhow with an Indian crew of 11 and used it to launch a failed attack on a super-tanker in the Gulf of Aden, a Kenya-based watchdog said on Monday.
The small Indian cargo vessel was hijacked on Friday, only 14 nautical miles off Bosasso, the main port in Somalia's northern semi-autonomous state of Puntland.
"It was used as a mothership in an unsuccessful attack on VLCC tanker Elephant this morning," said Andrew Mwangura, head of the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme.
A VLCC is a "very large crude carrier" such as the Saudi-owned Sirius Star, which Somali pirates held for two months after capturing it in November 2008 with two million barrels of crude oil.
The latest capture brings to at least 15 the number of ships held by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, together with more than 200 crew.
According to Ecoterra International, an environmentalist NGO monitoring illegal maritime activities in the region, a total of 145 pirate attacks, including 49 successful sea-jackings, have been reported in 2009.
Pirates armed with rifles, rocket-launchers and grappling hooks attack their prey by launching small and nimble skiffs from larger ships, generally small cargos or fishing vessels they have previously hijacked.