U.S. Navy responds to pirate attacks off Somalia
Two acts of piracy last week highlight the danger for commercial vessels sailing near the coast of Somalia.
Pirates seized control of a Japanese tanker and the crew of a North Korean cargo vessel overpowered hijackers in a bloody.
The crew of the North Korean vessel Dai Hong Dan regained control of its vessel after attacking pirates who had taken over the bridge on Oct. 29, according to the U.S. Navy. The vessel was about 60 nautical miles northeast of Mogadishu at the time of the attack.
The crew captured five pirates and killed two, while three seriously injured crewmembers were transferred to a U.S. Navy destroyer for medical attention.
The fight took place as a U.S. Navy helicopter that responded to a radio call ordered the pirates to give up their weapons, the Navy said. North Korea and the United States have no diplomatic relations, but the Navy said it responded out of humanitarian concern.
The Japanese chemical tanker Golden Nori was pirated in the Gulf of Aden, and the guided missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke is close by and monitoring the situation. It’s sister ship, the USS Porter, responded at one point by opening fire to destroy pirate skiffs tied to it, according to the Associated Press. The vessel has 23 crewmembers from the Philippines, Myanmar and South Korea. It is anchored in Somali waters.
The Panamanian-flagged Golden Nori was carrying a load of benzene when the USS Porter fired on two pirate boats tied to the tanker on Oct. 28, sinking both. Benzene, an industrial solvent, is both highly flammable and can be fatal if too much is inhaled. News reports conflicted about whether the U.S. military was aware of what was onboard when it fired at the skiffs.
The U.S. Navy typically does not enter Somali waters to pursue hijacked vessels.
In May, a U.S. Navy advisory warned merchant ships to stay at least 200 miles off the Somali coast. But the U.S. Maritime Administration said pirates sometimes issue false distress calls to lure ships closer to shore, news reports said.
Meanwhile, 24 sailors, including four South Koreans, were freed nearly six months after they were abducted by Somali pirates, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday, according to the Associated Press.
The sailors were seized May 15. It was not immediately clear how the sailors were freed, or whether any ransom was paid for their release, the AP said.
The two South Korean vessels, Mavuno 1 and 2, were being escorted to Port Aden in Yemen by a U.S. Navy warship.
The release leaves two other vessels still under pirate control of the coast of southern Somalia, according to Navy figures.