Malaysia Stops Hijacking of Thai Tanker, Nabs 10 Indonesian Pirate Suspects

Razlan Rashid
Kuala Lumpur
170907-MY-TH-ID-piracy-620.jpg Members of the Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency special forces, joined by Director General Adm. Zulkifli Abu Bakar, guard 10 Indonesians who allegedly hijacked an oil tanker, Sept. 7, 2017.
Courtesy of MMEA

Malaysian special forces foiled the hijacking of an oil tanker off the east coast state of Terengganu on Thursday by arresting 10 suspected Indonesian pirates on board, the country’s maritime enforcement agency said.

The alleged mastermind was arrested at a Malaysian hotel a few hours later while other suspects escaped from the ship on a speedboat, according to reports.

The MT MGT1, a Thai-registered tanker with a crew of 14, went missing Wednesday evening in the South China Sea, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said following the recovery of the ship on Thursday. A surveillance plane had spotted it near Tenggol Island.

“The special forces team boarded the tanker using a fast roping technique,” MMEA Director General Adm. Zulkifli Abu Bakar said in a statement, adding that the 14-member Thai crew and the Malaysian troops were not injured.

Ten suspected pirates, identified as Indonesian nationals, were taken into custody on the tanker, but three others escaped, according to Malaysian officials.

“Several warning shots were fired from the aircraft when the runaway boat attempted to escape,” Zulkifli said.

Efforts to stop the speedboat had to be called off because a helicopter chasing it ran low on fuel. Malaysia then deployed the KM Segantang, a fast-interceptor boat, to track down the fleeing suspects.

The tanker was escorted to Kuala Terengganu, where police will investigate the hijacking.

The tanker was carrying 2.2 million liters of diesel fuel valued at 7 million ringgit (U.S. $1.66 million), Malaysian officials said.

The leader of the hijacking crew was captured later on Thursday, the New Straits Times reported.

“Following the arrest of the pirates and their subsequent interrogation, we arrested the mastermind, an Indonesian in his 50s, at a hotel in Johor Baru at noon today,” Zulkifli said, according to the report.

Malaysia’s efforts drew praise from the director of a regional group combatting piracy.

“The rapid apprehension of the perpetrators and successful rescue of the crew and vessel within hours from reporting is a testament to the effectiveness of timely reporting by the ship and effective enforcement by the relevant authorities,” said Masafumi Kuroki, executive director of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP).

ReCAAP said the attempted hijacking was the second incident involving a tanker carrying an oil cargo in Asia in 2017. Pirates siphoned about 1.5 million gallons of diesel fuel from a Thai tanker traveling from Singapore to southern Thailand on June 23.

Fadzil Aziz in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this report.


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