US military: Somali pirates behind abortive mission to hijack commercial vessel


WASHINGTON - Somali pirates were behind the attempted hijacking of a commercial vessel along the Gulf of Aden, the US military has said, absolving Yemeni Houthis who had been implicated in the incident, the first in as many months along the coastline, which had been liberated from the pirates.

Initially, it was believed that the Houthis were behind the attempted hijacking of the vessel given that the region is controlled by them but the Pentagon has since ruled it out, instead blaming Somali pirates.

"We're continuing to assess, but initial indications are that these five individuals are Somali," said Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder.

"Clearly a piracy-related incident," Ryder added.

A U.S. Navy warship responded to a distress call on Sunday from the chemical tanker Central Park. The attackers were taken aboard the U.S. warship Mason, the U.S. military said, and the Central Park and its crew were safe, VOA reports.

Since the war between Israel and Palestine started, there has been an upsurge of piracy along the waters in the Middle East, but none have been successful. In Somalia, piracy had also gone down due to increased surveillance.

Central Park is a tanker managed by Zodiac Maritime Ltd, a London-headquartered international ship management company owned by Israel's Ofer family. The Liberian-flagged vessel was built in 2015 and is owned by Clumvez Shipping Inc., LSEG data showed.

No injuries were recorded during the incident despite the fact that US Navy personnel fired shots, Ryder told reporters. He added that there were three Chinese military ships in the area but they did not respond. China's embassy in Washington could not immediately be reached for comment on the assertion.

The U.S. military has said that two ballistic missiles were later fired from Houthi-controlled territory in the general direction of the Mason and Central Park, but they landed about 10 nautical miles away from the ships, VOA reports.

"It's not clear to us who they were targeting exactly," Ryder said.


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