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Somali Pirate Leader Missing After Attempted Hijack

FILE - A masked and armed Somali pirate stands near a fishing vessel.
FILE - A masked and armed Somali pirate stands near a fishing vessel.

A notorious Somali pirate leader is missing following an attempt Saturday to hijack a cargo ship, maritime sources and villagers said.

Abdikarim Salah "Aw Koombe" and two other pirates were last seen on board a Lebanese-registered cargo ship, OS 35 near Socotra Island, as they attempted to intimidate the crew and steer the vessel to the direction of the Somali coast, sources say.

Two pirates who remained in the ship have escaped and reached land, sources told VOA's Somali service.

The surviving pirates told residents in the Red Sea town of Alula that Aw Koombe and two other pirates who boarded the ship had been left behind.

They believe Aw Koombe and the two other pirates were likely captured by the Chinese navy who rescued the crew of the ship Saturday.

The Chinese navy was not available for comment, but internal information shared between international maritime forces off the coast of Somalia indicated that at least three pirates were arrested during the operation.

Aw Koombe is a known, notorious, wanted pirate leader who authorities believe was involved in the hijacking of at least 10 ships over the course of several years.

Meanwhile, Somali pirates are still holding nine Indian sailors who they moved to land after abandoning the boat Al Kausar following an operation by Somali regional security forces off the coast of Hobyo port town Monday night. The sailors, including the captain of the boat, are being held in a village called Qararrow.