South Korea’s military dispatched a naval unit in waters off Somalia after pirates reportedly hijacked a South Korean fishing vessel, officials said Saturday. The vessel, which had a crew of South Koreans and foreigners, lost contact after relaying that ”something is following the back of the ship,” according to an official from the Defense Ministry. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing office rules.
South Korea’s anti-piracy Cheonghae Unit was participating in international operations to combat piracy in nearby waters before responding to the situation. Crews from South Korean fishing vessels and cargo ships have often been targets of Somali pirates.
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Recent weeks have seen a resurgence of piracy off Somalia’s coast after five years of inactivity. The piracy was once a serious threat to the global shipping industry but lessened in recent years after an international effort to patrol off the coast. Some Somali fishermen, including former pirates, say foreign ships illegally fishing in local waters are forcing them to return to piracy to make money.
The 300-member Cheonghae Unit has been taking part in anti-piracy operations in the Horn of Africa since 2009. The unit is led by the 4,400-ton destroyer Choe Young.
In 2011, sailors and marines from the same unit raided a South Korean-operated cargo ship that had been hijacked by Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea, rescuing all 21 crew members and killing eight pirates and capturing five others. The five captured pirates were taken to South Korea and received long prison terms.