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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Emirati fishing boats fired upon by 'pirates' in Gulf of Oman

Crew said they lay flat on the deck as engines were riddled with bullets 

Emirati fishing boat captain Yousef Baroun points out at the bullet shots he says were fired by pirates during the interview at Fujairah fishing port. Satish Kumar for The National
Emirati fishing boat captain Yousef Baroun points out at the bullet shots he says were fired by pirates during the interview at Fujairah fishing port. Satish Kumar for The National

A fleet of Emirati fishing vessels was fired upon by suspected pirates while sailing in the Gulf of Oman, according to boat crews.

A captain and crew showed photos and video footage of their engines riddled with bullets as a result of the encounter about 12.30pm on Tuesday.

“They appeared from nowhere and told us to go back and immediately started shooting at our boat,” Yousef Baroun, a 52-year-old Emirati fisherman, told the The National.

He said the fleet was about 90 kilometres off the coast of Fujairah in international waters.

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“We tried to escape but they managed to shoot our engines and damaged them. We laid down on the floor to avoid the gunshots and then another boat came to rescue us,” he said.

Captain Baroun described four pirates on a boat with no flag and said the guns they used appeared to be Kalashnikov AK-47-style assault rifles. He said he was not sure what nationality the men were.

His fleet was searching for tuna fish at the time.

Fujairah, April 26, 2018: Yousef Baroun pose next to his boat which was attacked by the pirates at the fisherman port in Fujairah . Satish Kumar for the National / Story by Ruba Haza
Yousef Baroun next to his damaged boat. Satish Kumar for The National

“We always fish here and this is the first time such an incident has happened. They could have killed us and they should be caught and punished for what they did,” said Captain Baroun.

“I lost two engines that will cost me around Dh90,000 to buy new ones.

"Thank God we are safe but this is the only source of living I have now and this will affect not only me but also my family."

Another captain and his three sailing crew also came close to the boat with the four armed pirates.

"They had a fast boat and had guns. They came from the side and warned us by raising their guns,” said Emirati Abdullah Al Ali, 42.

“I tried to sail the boat to get away from them but they were faster than me so I ordered my men to lay down in order not to get shot. They kept chasing us and fired gunshots in the air."

Mr Al Ali assumed the men were smugglers and that he fleet had disturbed them.

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“We always fish there when it’s tuna season and this is the first time we've been exposed to something like this. International waters are for everybody and no one can prevent us from fishing there,” he said.

He said that he towed Yousef Baroun's damaged boat back to Fujairah.

“After they left the area we went back to check on Yousef and his crow. Thank God they were safe."

Mahmoud Al Sharaa, the managing official of Fujairah Fishermens' Association, said that crews are advised to hunt within UAE waters, which is within 12 nautical miles of the shore.

“It could have been a tragic incident but we can’t prevent them from fishing there, it’s not our call. But we always advise them to stay within the UAE waters.

“Such incidents rarely happen and we hope there will not be a repeat."

Piracy incidents in the Gulf of Oman are relatively rare although there were reports of attempted hijackings in 2011.

But incidents are relatively common further south in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia, which saw a spike in attacks last summer after five years of respite.

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