Eight men, all from Sri Lanka, have been held captive on their oil tanker, the Aris 13, by Somali pirates since Monday.  By Tuesday evening, it was confirmed that the pirates on board intend to demand a ransom for the safe return of the vessel and its crew – but the situation continued to deteriorate toward violence on Thursday morning as gunfire broke out between pirates on board and naval forces in the area.

According to a statement provided by the director general of the Puntland maritime force, Abdirahman Mohamud Hassan, a small boat was quickly approaching the tanker with what is believed to be supplies such as food and water.  Naval ships in the vicinity moved to intercept the supply run when pirates aboard the Aris 13 opened fire on them, forcing authorities to redirect their attention and allow the supply boat to escape.

Puntland, which is a semi-autonomous region of Somalia, reported that four people were wounded in the incident, but provided no further details as to who was hurt or how severely.  One local report suggests that at least one Puntland soldier suffered significant injuries, however.  They have deployed more authorities to the scene to bolster rescue efforts for the hostages aboard the Aris 13, according to a Puntland district commissioner.

Unconfirmed reports suggest the pirates received reinforcements earlier in the week as authorities were working to get into position.