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Pirates open fire on local naval forces in Somalia

Pirates open fire on local naval forces in SomaliaThe head of the Somali maritime force said naval troops exchanged gunfire with the hijackers of an oil tanker in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, Reuters reported on Thursday.

This is the first time Somali pirates have taken over a commercial ship since 2012 and locals blame the attack on foreign fishermen flooding into their waters, and are also angry with their government for licensing some of the ships.

"We tried to intercept a boat that was carrying supplies to the pirates, but pirates on the ship fired on us and so the pirate boat escaped," said Abdirahman Mohamud Hassan, the director general of the maritime force in Puntland.

Pirate Abdulaahi claimed the pirates killed a member of the marine force and injured another, but Hassan said that was untrue.

Residents near the ship, which was hijacked on Monday with eight Sri Lankan crew aboard, confirmed hearing the gunfire.

A Somali pirate who said he was in touch with the armed men, Bile Hussein, said the pirates moved the ship away from the coast after naval forces approached.

"The ship and crew will remain safe as long as no one attacks them," Hussein said by phone from an undisclosed location in northern Somalia.

In their heyday in 2011, Somali pirates launched 237 attacks off the coast of Somalia, data from the International Maritime Bureau showed, and held hundreds of hostages.

But attacks fell sharply after crews put safety measures into place and regional naval forces stepped up patrols.
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