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U.S. Navy detains five Somalis pirates near Yemen after thwarting tanker hijack

Wednesday November 29, 2023

The guided-missile destroyer USS Mason steams away from the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Joshua Humphreys after completing an underway replenishment-at-sea in the Atlantic Ocean, July 17, 2021. The Mason responded to a distress call from a commercial vessel, Nov. 27, 2023.

Mogadishu (HOL) - The U.S. Navy thwarted a piracy attempt on the Liberian-flagged tanker M/V Central Park on Monday, detaining five Somali nationals in the process. This incident, confirmed by the Pentagon, highlights the stubborn maritime security challenges in the region.

The M/V Central Park, managed by London-based Zodiac Maritime and associated with an Israeli firm, found itself under siege on Sunday when five armed individuals attempted to breach the crew's cabin. "The crew [of the Central Park] was able to lock themselves into a safe haven," reported Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder at a Pentagon press briefing. Ryder described the event as piracy-related.

Responding to the distress call, the USS Mason destroyer, part of the counter-piracy Combined Task Force 151, spearheaded the response. The task force included U.S. and allied ships. Three Chinese navy vessels were nearby but reportedly failed to respond to a distress call. "The Mason sent out a visit, board, search and seizure team on the water that stopped the small boat. They detained the individuals," Brig. Gen. Ryder explained, highlighting the U.S. Navy's decisive action.

According to the Pentagon, the attackers attempted to flee in a small boat, which the Mason pursued, firing warning shots to halt their escape. Subsequently, the Mason's crew apprehended the attackers, who are now detained onboard the destroyer.

Hours later, the tension escalated with the launch of two ballistic missiles from Houthi-controlled territories in Yemen toward the vicinity of Mason and the Central Park. These missiles landed harmlessly in the Gulf, approximately ten nautical miles from the ships. The connection between this missile launch and the piracy incident remains unclear, and the Pentagon has refrained from speculation.

This piracy attempt comes amidst a backdrop of heightened regional conflict.

On November 19, Yemeni Houthis seized a cargo ship in the southern Red Sea. The Galaxy Leader has been described as a British-owned, Japanese-operated commercial ship. However, ownership details in public shipping databases associated the ship's owners with Ray Car Carriers, founded by Abraham "Rami" Ungar, who is known as one of the wealthiest men in Israel.

The recent piracy incident is a reminder of the once-prevalent threat of Somali piracy, which has seen a remarkable decline due to international naval efforts, legal measures, and regional capacity-building.


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