MOGADISHU, Feb. 24 -- Suspected Somali pirates attacked a Singaporean-flagged chemical tanker early Saturday but were repulsed by guards on board, the European Union naval force said.
A statement from EU Navfor Somalia (EU NAVFOR) said on Saturday that the Motor Tanker Leopard Sun was attacked by two skiffs, about 160 nautical miles (about 300km) off the coast of Somalia.
"The skiffs approached the MT Leopard Sun from the stern and fired upon her, after which the on-board private armed security team returned fire with warning shots," the naval force said.
The EU naval force, which have been patrolling the Indian Ocean waters, said the incident lasted about 20 minutes before the skiffs turned away.
"EU NAVFOR can confirm the vessel and crew are now safe," it said.
The 50,000-metric-tonne chemical tanker was en route from Sohar, Sultanate of Oman, to Cape Town, South Africa when the incident occurred.
EU NAVFOR said the attack, likely to be piracy-related, was the first of its kind in the area since November 2017.
The naval force said it has issued navigation warnings and alerts to inform both mariners and merchant vessels in the "High Risk Area" and the wider shipping industry of the attack.
Maritime experts have warned that Somali pirates tend to be armed with automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades and sometimes use skiffs launched from mother vessels, which may be hijacked fishing vessels or dhows, to conduct attacks far from the Somali coast.