Somali pirates operating off the Horn of Africa reportedly seized three more commercial vessels on 19 November 2008. A Thai fishing boat was the first reported hijacking, with at least 16 crewmembers being held hostage on the ship. Another vessel flying under a Hong Kong flag was seized in the same area. Maritime news sources stated that the ship is owned by an Iranian firm and is carrying a cargo of wheat. Suspected Somali pirates also boarded a Greek bulk carrier with between 20-25 crewmembers. All three ships were hijacked in the Gulf of Aden.
The wave of hijackings follows the seizure of a Saudi oil tanker over the weekend that marked an escalation in the widespread piracy off the coast of east Africa. In response to the incidents, European Union and NATO military vessels have been patrolling the waters near the port of Eyl in the Puntland region of Somalia. Eyl is a base of operations for pirates, and maritime officials believe that up to 200 hostages are being held in the pirate haven.
In a related development, Indian authorities announced on 18 November that one of their naval warships sank a boat carrying pirates in the Gulf of Aden. The armed frigate opened fire on the small ship after the pirates attempted to launch an attack. The Indian navy dispatched warships and helicopters to the Gulf of Aden earlier this month to assist in the fight against piracy.