Somali fishermen at the coast of Puntland’s Bari region are reported to have hijacked an oil tanker, about 7 km off the coast of Alula district on Monday afternoon, Garowe Online reports.

A suspected pirate among the group who hijacked the oil tanker spoke to Radio Garowe during an exclusive interview over the phone from Alula town on Tuesday.

He said the vessel and crew are under custody and majority of the crew are from Philippine and UK. He later claimed the oil tanker has intentionally spilled toxic waste in the territorial waters of Puntland, which polluted the sea.

“We are fishermen in Alula town, our livelihood destroyed by the illegal trawlers and chemical waste dumping. We were fishing and then we saw the vessel spilling waste in the sea, which reached our coast,” said the hijacker.

Asked about their demands after hijacking the vessel, the hijacker declined to give more information about their plans but said they wanted to show the international community the problems that these foreign ships pose on coastal communities in Puntland.

“We are not pirates as reported by the media. We are protecting out territorial waters from the International ships dumping the toxic and chemical wastes on our coast,” he added.

Moreover, the hijacker accused Puntland President of taking part in affecting the livelihood of coastal communities after the current government permitted massive numbers of illegal trawlers to freely carry out fishing in Puntland.

 He later warned against negative outcome if Puntland government or foreign forces are planning to forcibly release the vessel from them.

“I never thought of doing this, but I am forced to do it, we see thousands of ships in our territorial waters, it is our responsibility to protect our sea,” added the hijacker.

He later said the crew members are safe and still didn’t hold any talks with them.

On the other hand, Puntland government officials are yet to release any statement regarding the hijacking of oil tanker. The piracy has drastically declined since 2012 but maritime security experts have previously warned against threat of rise of piracy off the coast of Somalia due to increase of illegal fishing.

This comes amid numerous complains of coastal communities to the surge of fishing activities by trawlers. Recently GO has published report indicating that Puntland government has granted fishing licenses to 7 foreign trawlers to carry out fishing activities in Puntland.

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