Eritrean forces board ship in Red Sea, not pirates: officials

(Reuters) - Eritrean forces have boarded a merchant vessel that was in their territorial waters in an incident the crew initially reported as a pirate attack, maritime officials said on Sunday. It was not immediately clear

(Reuters) – Eritrean forces have boarded a merchant vessel that was in their territorial waters in an incident the crew initially reported as a pirate attack, maritime officials said on Sunday.

It was not immediately clear why the forces boarded the ship, the MV Marzooqah, and it was not immediately possible to contact authorities in Eritrea, one of Africa’s most isolated nations.

The container vessel had sent out a distress signal late on Saturday indicating that they were coming under attack by pirates.

Reuters data showed the vessel change direction sharply but also showed it moving towards the Eritrean coast early on Sunday, not the Gulf of Aden – the site of most pirate attacks and where one official had said the ship was headed.

“We assess this is an operation by the Eritrean forces, who went on board the vessel,” said Lieutenant Commander Jacqueline Sherriff, spokeswoman for the European Union Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR) whose operational region is further south.

“We believe the vessel is now in the hands of the Eritrean forces,” she said, adding the incident had initially appeared on a system used for piracy alerts. “The crew has reported they thought they were being attacked.”

She said the latest information on the Eritrean role had been obtained from the UK Maritime Trade Operation (UKMTO), which had spoken to Marzooqah’s captain. UKMTO is based in Dubai and run by Britain’s Royal Navy.

Andrew Mwangura, secretary general of the Seafarers Union of Kenya, also said the 2,196 deadweight tonne vessel had been boarded by Eritrean forces, basing his information on regional coastguard reports. He had initially reported it was a pirate attack.

The number of attacks by Somali pirates dropped sharply in 2013. There were 176 confirmed piracy attacks in the region in 2011 and 36 in 2012, but this fell to just seven attacks in 2013 while no ships in that year were successfully seized.

EU NAVFOR, which has been deployed to patrol a region that includes the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean areas, has said the threat of piracy remains.

“Because the conditions in Somalia have not changed significantly or to any great extent … we have been saying there is no room for complacency,” Sherriff said.

Experts say the past two years or so of relative stability in Somalia after 20 years of chaos and war have offered a chance to tackle the problem of pirate gangs operating from Somali territory but say limited progress has been made.

(Additional reporting by Richard Lough; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Pravin Char)

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11 COMMENTS
  • eritreanmilitary movement January 21, 2014

    The eritrean military movement has a real evidence that the dictator isayas regime is preparing it self to arrest manjus along with his family.Isayas is consulting this case with a very secret way with yemane monkey.This is planned in order to avoid the human right case criminal case of human trafficking.
    Along with manus 18 military officers are also identified to be arreted.

  • simerr2012 January 21, 2014

    If we wait to get the news from Thomas Mountain , he will tell us some mercenaries came under merchant ship to kill the President but an old mama gave information on time and the security forces acted professionally and immediately. Then some days later the on TV Ere (Tv Isayas serving the dictator) Asmelash will appear and tell us we brought some CIA agents under arrest who tried to enter Eritrean water illegally . With his very funny mimic and movement, with his with cigar destroyed teeth will explain us how the government handle the case patently and wisely , studied the case very seriously by Eritrean government, of course not to forget to mention the very talented professional Eritrean Navy who are able to detect any ship or boat come to Eritrea but are not good to control boats who leave Eritrea illegally to Saudi Arabia and Yemen. If the crew member are from Asia and Africa then no big news and big deal. But if they are from Europe and America , the government will make some cheap propaganda to the diaspora Eritreans feel more pride about the country Navy and military. The question is how long can the government can be silent and keep the crew member if they are from Europe and America? If they are from England the government cannot play mouse and cat because the British knows how to handle dictators .If they are from Sweden , the cheap talk will go for long.

    • Nahom January 21, 2014

      simerr2012

      If they are from Britain, the same scenario will happen that is the British Government will threat to stop transfer of the illegally collected 2% money then DIA whose brain and conscience is full of criminality will appear in his starving the truth TV… to say these British guys breached the law but his government pardoned them and were set free.

  • Kiflom January 21, 2014

    It is no wonder for the PFDJ pirates to assault the said ship. It has been its tactics to salvage hostage money. This is not its first time and it won’t be the last until its demise. The concerned bodies need to carefully and seriously investigate this illegal action and present their report to the Monitoring Group and other concerned bodies. Yemenites reported repeatedly over this piratical behavior of the totalitarian state which is desperate over collecting money.

  • Ahferom January 21, 2014

    issais will not release it for months now, he will create a story but the international community must take serious action. He was suppose to communicate with them rather than doing his piracy activities.

  • Yosief January 21, 2014

    The news from ertv of Asmara will be like this,” The heroic of the Coutrys navy has freed a captiv merchant ship which where boarded by terrorist backed by al shebab of Somalia. Although the coutry is so serious in its territory it is reseonable to get help from Eu.USA Aou and even from Ethiopia and Egad”to stable the region

  • belay tewelde January 21, 2014

    Defenitely the fascist regime will detain the captain and the crew. Then the British will put pressure on it by denying Wedi gerahtu the HARE free movement and the collection of 2%. Finally as it did before it will release them with an apology.

  • Tafla Keren January 21, 2014

    I believe this will speed up the departure of the dictator regime of Eritrea, and Eritrean will have their freedom in their hands. Thank God!

  • Berhane January 22, 2014

    same one have to kill this ass=whole

  • Sina January 22, 2014

    MUST BE TO READ

    nilebam amitelu nasha dma derguHalu endy? hawna Semere Tesfai nezom neametat kem Ameba zibaziHu ayashu opposition grimgieru derguHilom alo.

    Everyone should read it from the beginning to the end.

    http://awate.com/badme-an-eritrean-opposition-deathbed/

    • Nahom January 22, 2014

      Sina

      Hawka Semere has done nothing except copy paste of Shabit’s editorials which we heard frequently being read by Asmelash of TV starving the truth.

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