Arrests in Tanzania
Official sources in Tanzania have stated that the suspected pirates arrested on an island close to the Songo-Songo gas fields were in close communication with a mother ship carrying seven more suspected pirates.
‘Pirates’ nabbed near Tanzanian gas field
Tanzanian forces have arrested five suspected pirates on an island near one of the East African country’s offshore gas fields.
A Spanish warship has also nabbed seven further suspects on a nearby pirate mothership, freeing hostages held for over half a year.
“The Tanzanian navy arrested the pirates in their skiff on 18 April near the Songo-Songo gas fields,” army spokesman Kapambale Mgawe told Reuters. A spokesperson for counter piracy task force EUNAVFOR later confirmed the arrest to Upstream.
“Each of the five pirates was found in possession of a sub-machine gun,” Mgawe told the news wire.
“The pirates arrested in Tanzania were in close communication with a mother ship that has seven more pirates. A Spanish vessel has managed to arrest the pirates on this mother ship and they are being brought to Tanzania today for custody.”
Mgawe said the mother ship used by the pirates was formerly a Sri Lankan fishing vessel with six crew members on board.
The EUNAVFOR spokesperson identified the warship as the Infanta Elena with the arrests taking place also on Wednesday. The suspects remain on board the vessel.
There was no attack on any oil and gas vessels or installations, the spokesperson said.
The motership from which the seven suspects were taken to the warship was a Sri Lankan fishing vessel which was being held for ransom for over eight months. The crew has now been freed.
“The Tanzanian navy has been conducting regular patrols to ensure Somali pirates do not enter our territorial waters from deep seas to carry out attacks,” Mgawe told Reuters.
Continued Somali pirate activity in the Indian Ocean poses a threat to the offshore exploration ambitions of Tanzania, Kenya and others along the East African coast.
Last October, Tanzania arrested seven suspected pirates following an attack on a drillship operated by Brazil’s Petrobras off the coast of the country.
And last year, it ordered its army to escort ships searching for oil and gas off its coast to protect them from pirates, who are believed to be targeting expatriate workers on exploration ships.
The arrest of the five suspects brings to 23 the total number of pirates arrested in Tanzania following attacks in its Indian Ocean territorial waters in the past few years.