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Somalia - US Navy Captures Suspected Somali Pirates

By doina — last modified Jan 21, 2009 07:50 PM

Published: 2009-01-21 19:50:36

On Saturday January 21 the U.S. Navy boarded an suspected pirate ship about 50 miles off the Somali coast and detained a number of men for questioning.

The Navy said it captured the dhow in response to a report from the International Maritime Bureau in Kuala Lumpur on Friday that said pirates had fired on the MV Delta Ranger, a Bahamian-flagged bulk carrier that was passing some 200 miles off the central eastern coast of Somalia.

The Churchill shadowed the suspect vessel, and tried to make contact over the radio, before resorting to "aggressive manoeuvring in an attempt to stop the vessel". When this failed, "Churchill fired warning shots. The vessel cut speed and went dead in the water," the statements said. Later a number of sailors were taken off the vessel and a quantity of small arms was recovered.

The dhow's crew and passengers were being questioned aboard the Churchill to determine which were pirates and which were legitimate crew members. Sailors aboard the dhow told Navy investigators that pirates hijacked the vessel six days ago near Mogadishu and thereafter used it to stage pirate attacks on merchant ships.

A US Navy spokesman said they were still investigating the incident and would discuss with international authorities what to do with the detained men.

The Churchill is part of the US navy's Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain and patrols the western Indian Ocean and Horn of Africa region as part of a multi-national task force to thwart terrorist activity and other lawlessness during the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Piracy, including hijackings and hostage-taking, has become common off anarchic Somalia, where there has been no effective central government since 1991.

The transitional Somali government has signed a two-year deal with a private US marine security company to carry out coastal patrols. However, it is not clear where this money would come from, as the government has not effectively taken office. The security company has not started work.