It's been a while, but Somali pirates are officially back in action, with a spate of attacks over the last few days culminating in the capture of a huge oil tanker in the Arabian sea.
Now, capturing ships is what pirates do so perhaps that doesn't seem so impressive, but did you notice you haven't heard much about it lately? That's because, as Reuters' George Obulutsa reports, this is the first successful pirate attack in more than a year. And the ship, a Greek-owned, Liberian-flagged tanker called MT Smyrni, is full of about a million barrels of oil, so it's a massive haul.
The hijacking came after four unsuccessful attacks in the area off the Horn of Africa, documented on the maritime social networking site Oceanus Live. Oceanus also reported that the MT Smyrni apparently didn't have a security team, but that the crew had managed to fend off one attack before the pirates found success on their second try.
And then there's the pirates' spokesman, Ahmed, who gave Reuters the pirates' side of the story and with whom we're now rather fascinated:
A pirate who identified himself as Ahmed told Reuters the MT Smyrni had been diverted towards Somalia's lawless coastline.
"It is now heading to one of our bases," Ahmed told Reuters by phone from a pirate lair in Hobyo.
This is seriously criminal stuff, but it's kind of entertaining to imagine the pirate PR outfit, which seems to mostly consist of this guy Ahmed, at least lately. Reuters' Mohamed Ahmed, who reported Friday's hijacking along with Obulutsa, has spoken with Ahmed while reporting on the pirates before. Back in March someone named Ahmed provided details about the ransom that freed British hostage Judith Tebbutt. In 2009, an AP report cited a pirate spokesman named Ahmed Gadaf, who clarified the pirates' position when they kidnapped Brits Paul and Rachel Chandler. But there are other spokesmen too, including Januna Ali Jana, who talked to outfits such as the BBC and Der Spiegel in 2008. The pirates often get represented by unnamed spokespeople in news reports, too. Hey, if you're going to get covered by the press, it's good to designate someone to talk to reporters, even if you're pirates.