MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somali pirates have hijacked a Mozambican-flagged fishing vessel about 200 nautical miles (370 km) southwest of Comoros in the Indian Ocean, the European Union’s anti-piracy taskforce said on Saturday.
The capture of the 140-tonne Vega 5 and its 14-strong crew of unknown nationalities is the second successful strike by pirates off the northern tip of Madagascar in a week.
Somali pirates usually operate further north in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia where a lack of central government and an Islamist insurgency has allowed piracy to flourish off the anarchic Horn of Africa nation’s shores.
While the pirates frequently venture east around the Seychelles and towards the Maldives they are rarely active south of Tanzania.
“Since late December, Somali pirates have been focusing their activities around Tanzania, Comoros and Madagascar to avoid rougher seas further north,” Andrew Mwangura, head of the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme, told Reuters.
A NATO counter-piracy website reported this week that the hijacked Taiwanese-owned fishing vessel FV Shiuh Fu No 1, seized on December 25, was operating as a pirate “mothership” in the same area off Madagascar.
Pirates are making tens of millions of dollars in ransoms from seizing merchant ships in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, despite efforts by foreign navies to clamp down on such attacks.