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BOSASSO, Somalia (Reuters) - Maritime police in Somalia's semi-autonomous region of Puntland said on Thursday they would attack hijackers holding an oil tanker to free the vessel if efforts by local elders to get them to surrender did not work.

Gunmen hijacked the small oil tanker Aris 13 on Monday and are demanding a ransom to release the ship and its eight Sri Lankan crew, said the EU Naval Force that patrols the waters off Somalia. It is the first ship to be seized since 2012.

Abdirahman Mohamud Hassan, director general of Puntland's maritime police, said they had surrounded the ship, which is docked near the port town of Alula, but had been asked by local elders to give them a chance to convince the hijackers to free the vessel.

"If they do not get off, we shall fight to rescue the ship," Hassan told Reuters.

The 1,800 deadweight tonne Aris 13 is owned by Panama company Armi Shipping and managed by Aurora Ship Management in the United Arab Emirates, according to the Equasis shipping data website managed by the French transport ministry.

In 2011, Somali pirates launched 237 attacks off Somalia's coast, data from the International Maritime Bureau showed, and took hundreds hostage.

That year aid group Oceans Beyond Piracy estimated the global cost of piracy at about $7 billion. The shipping industry bore roughly 80 percent of those costs, it said.

Attacks fell off sharply, however, after ship owners tightened security and vessels stayed farther away from the Somali coast.

(Reporting by Abdiqani Hassan; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Reuters