March 15 (UPI) -- Pirates who hijacked an oil tanker in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia are demanding ransom for the crew's release, the European Union anti-piracy naval force said Wednesday.
The size of the ransom was not revealed, said the EU force that contacted the ship's master.
It was the first hijacking off Somalia's coast since 2012.
Aris 13 carried eight crew members from Sri Lanka, according to the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The vessel contained oil and was owned by the United Arab Emirates.
The tanker was en route from Djibouti to Somalia's capital, Mogadishu.
The ship sent a distress signal Monday, saying it was being approached by high-speed boats.
The tanker has now been anchored near the Somali town of Alula. Sky News reported weapon smugglers have operated there, as well as members of al-Shabab, an extremist group with links to al-Qaida.
The hijackers told a local official they are fishermen whose equipment was destroyed by illegal fishing vessels.
"The men who are holding it [the shop claim that they are fishermen who suffered from the illegal fishing in the area," Ali Shire Mohamud Osman, the district commissioner in the town of Alula, near the hijacking, told the BBC. "However, if we confirm that they are pirates, I will ask them to leave the area immediately. Otherwise, we will see how we can save the vessel."