Ruthless pirates who executed a fatal attack on a Turkish-owned container vessel may have overstepped the mark with the military might they used to breach the citadel or ‘panic room’ of the MV Mozart over the weekend.
Now, with the pirates having kidnapped 15 seafarers of Turkish origin after killing another from Azerbaijan, no less than the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has become involved in securing the release of the carrier’s personnel.
According to reports he is “orchestrating officials” in applying pressure on the pirates, who since Saturday’s attack about 98 nautical miles (181 kilometres) north-west of the island of Sao Tomé and Principe, have gone to ground – presumably hiding in Nigeria’s delta off Port Harcourt.
Erdogan is also said to have spoken to Farken Yaren, fourth captain of the Mozart, who escaped kidnapping and managed to steer the ship towards safety in Gabonese waters despite sustaining a serious injury in the attack.
Yaren was one of the onboard personnel who managed to escape the kidnappers.
Not only is this the first time that pirates have managed to breach a carrier’s citadel with the use of explosives, but to date it is also the furthest strike into the Gulf of Guinea.
Analysts have since said the attack has significantly raised the bar of militarised incursions against cargo liners which, in recent times, have become increasingly sophisticated - with heavily armed and well-trained pirates merciless in executing their attacks.
Reactions by various sea freight representatives now suggest that Nigeria could find itself pressurised by the international community to take tougher action against pirates who routinely retreat into safe harbour areas on the country’s coastline.
According to David Johnson, CEO of EOS Risk Group in the UK, the weekend’s attack could be seen as a tipping point for the perilous conditions seafarers have to face when transiting the gulf.
He told Reuters: “The fact that some died, the number of people taken, and the apparent use of explosives to breach the citadel means it’s a potential game-changer.
“It’s clearly sophisticated and if pirates have decided to use munitions it’s a big move.”
Despite Erdogan’s involvement, he said there was little hope of finding the kidnapped victims.
Since the attack, additional details are continuing to be revealed about what happened.
According to maritime security specialists Ambrey, four armed men boarded the Liberian-flagged Mozart and used extreme violence while holding hostages at gunpoint and blasting open the secure area.
It is not clear if that was when the Azerbaijani seafarer was killed.
Yaren was reportedly severely beaten in the incident but managed to take the Mozart, en route from Lagos to Cape Town at the time, towards safety near Port-Gentil.
The vessel’s captain, Mustafa Kaya, a 42-year-old father of two, is one of the kidnapped seafarers.
At the moment, nothing has been forthcoming out of Ankara following Erdogan’s involvement. Boden, the Istanbul owners of the Mozart, have also not heard anything about ransom demands for the lives of the kidnapped personnel.