Pirates have hijacked an Indian commercial ship off the coast of Somalia, the second attack in weeks after years of inactivity, industry and security sources said on Monday.
United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which coordinates the management of merchant ships and yachts in the Gulf of Aden area, said it had received information that a dhow en route to Bosasso from Dubai had been hijacked "in the vicinity of Socotra (Island)".
A spokesman said UKMTO could not confirm the location of the vessel, which he identified as Al Kausar, or what exactly had taken place, and that investigations were continuing.
Somali pirates hijacked an oil tanker last month, the first commandeering of a vessel since 2012, but released it after a clash with the Puntland marine force.
Somalis have been angered recently by foreign fishermen flooding into their waters, some of whom have been given licences to operate there by the Somali government.
An Indian government official briefed on the incident confirmed the crew's number, said they were all Indian, that the vessel was an unmechanised dhow, and that officials were in touch with the Somali government.
Somali pirates have seized an Indian cargo ship and 11 crew members, the ship's owner said Monday.
"The vessel was hijacked on Friday (March 31) from mid-sea. One of the crew members called me on Saturday evening and informed me about the hijacking," said Them.
"We have asked those who loaded their goods in the vessel in Dubai to make efforts to salvage our crew and the vessel."
The president of the Kutch Seafarers Association, Adam Them, from the western state of Gujarat where the vessel originated, said that the pirates had already made ransom demands.
"We got a call from one of the crew members today that the pirates have demanded money from the owners of the goods in the vessel," he said.
"Negotiations are on. The crew member further informed that five gunmen were onboard the vessel ... However, nobody has been hurt."
Mohamed Samater, a security official from Puntland on the northeastern tip of Somalia, confirmed that a ship had been hijacked, but did not have further details.
Pirates have taken the vessel to El Hur, near the port of Hobyo in Somalia's semi-autonomous Galmudug state, a pirate leader said on Tuesday.
Aw Kombe also said the pirates were in touch with businessmen in Kismayu over releasing the vessel, Al Kausar.
"The traders want the dhow be released without ransom but my friends say they may not release without at least some cash," he added. "They are still discussing."
The identity and origin of the hijackers was disputed, however. A Galmudug state official said the pirates came from northern Somalia's semi-autonomous state of Puntland while Kombe, a Puntland pirate leader, put the blame on "our friends from Galmudug state".