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Somali pirates have reportedly hijacked an Iranian fishing vessel off the Horn of Africa to use it as a mothership in attacking bigger and more valuable ships.

The incident occurred on Tuesday, after a group of pirates captured the Iranian vessel "in order to hijack (other) ships," Ali Shire, the mayor of Haabo, in the northern semi-autonomous region of Puntland, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

He further claimed that the Iranian fishing vessel did not allegedly "have a license (to fish) in Puntland."

The report, however, did not give more details about the fate of the Iranian fishermen.

Piracy used to be a major problem in the Gulf of Aden as Somali pirates frequently attacked ships, seized their cargoes and kidnapped crew members, later demanding ransom for their release. However, over the past years, the threat has largely been contained after international warships took to the area to protect trade vessels.

According to the UK-based International Maritime Bureau, pirates, in their heydays in 2011, carried out 237 attacks off the coast of Somalia and kept hundreds of hostages, demanding to receive ransom from their respective countries.

The figure, however, dramatically reduced to only two ships being fired on off the Somalian coasts in 2016, it further said, adding that since January this year three hijacking cases had been reported, all of which were unsuccessful.

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Somali pirates Iranian fishing
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