Warships thwart pirate attacks off Somalia
Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean picked on someone their own size Sunday and paid the price.
Eleven armed gunmen in two skiffs mistakenly attacked a French Navy warship believing it was a defenseless commercial vessel they could hijack for ransom, and were captured, according to international news reports.
The skiffs approached the warship Nivose about 620 miles off the coast of Kenya, but were intercepted by a navy helicopter and commandoes in speedboats before they could fire, French military officials said. The French navy also captured a mother ship that the pirates used as a base of operations.
The pirates are being held on the ship for questioning. The Nivose, part of a European Union task force operating off Somalia to protect commercial vessels, has intercepted 24 pirates in the past three weeks. Three other pirates were captured on Thursday, but released for lack of evidence. However, the Seychelles coast guard picked up the pirates after the European Union notified them of a suspicious fishing vessel in their waters.
Earlier, a Portuguese frigate participating in the EU force thwarted an attack on a Norwegian tanker and captured 19 suspected pirates. The pirates disengaged from their attack after the frigate launched a helicopter. The frigate gave chase and caught up with the mother ship about an hour later. The Navy confiscated a cache of AK-47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, as well as some explosives. The discovery of explosives is unusual and a NATO spokesman could not say what they might have been used for.
The Portuguese navy eventually released the pirates because they had not violated any Portuguese laws. The lack of an international law or policy on detention or prosecution of pirates is hindering efforts to bring them to justice.
A South Korean navy warship came to the defense of a North Korean freighter on Monday and scared away Somali pirates. The North Korean placed a distress call and the South Korean warship sent a Lynx helicopter to the scene. The pirates broke off the attack after snipers in the helicopter threatened to fire on them, the South Korean navy said. The incident took place 23 miles south of the Yemeni port of Aden.
Meanwhile, another group of pirates successfully captured a Panamanian-flagged vessel carrying wheat and used vehicles to Mogadishu, Somalia, and have diverted it to a village base camp in Harradera, a NATO spokesman said. The Almezaan carries a crew of 18 Indians.
Pirates also took over a British-owned bulk carrier in the Indian Ocean. The Ariana was carrying 35,000 tons of soya when it was captured 287 miles northwest of the Seychelles. The NATO spokesman said the crew is Ukrainian, but did not have a figure for the number of people onboard. The vessel is being monitored by aircraft as it makes its way to Somali waters.