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Royal Navy in firefight with Somali pirates

By Val Ellis last modified Nov 13, 2008 04:23 PM

Published: 2008-11-13 16:23:09
Topics: Piracy Reports 2008

Pirates caught redhanded by one of Her Majesty’s warships after trying to hijack a cargo ship off Somalia made the grave mistake of opening fire on two Royal Navy assault craft packed with commandos armed with machineguns and SA80 rifles.

In the ensuing gunfight, two Somali pirates in a Yemeni-registered fishing dhow were killed, and a third pirate, believed to be a Yemeni, suffered injuries and subsequently died. It was the first time the Royal Navy had been engaged in a fatal shoot-out on the high seas in living memory.

By the time the Royal Marines boarded the pirates’ vessel, the enemy had lost the will to fight and surrendered quietly. The Royal Navy described the boarding as “compliant”. The dramatic confrontation, the latest in a series of piracy incidents in the Gulf of Aden in recent months, took place 60 miles south of the Yemeni coast and involved the Royal Navy Type 22 frigate, HMS Cumberland, which has a Royal Marine unit on board, on short-notice standby to engage in “non-compliant boardings”.

HMS Cumberland, on anti-piracy patrol as part of a Nato maritime force, detected the dhow which was towing a skiff, and identified it as a vessel which had been involved in an attack on the Danish-registered MV Powerful earlier yesterday. The pirates had opened fire on the cargo boat with assault rifles.

Under rules of engagement which allows the Royal Navy to intervene when pirates are positively identified, the commandos were dispatched from the frigate in rigid-raider craft and sped towards the pirates’ dhow. The Ministry of Defence said the Marines circled the pirates’ boat to try and persuade them to stop.

As they approached, however, several of the pirates, a mixed crew of Somalis and Yemenis, swung their assault rifles in their direction and opened fire. The MoD said the Royal Marines returned fire “in self defence”, and then boarded the dhow — a stolen Yemeni-registered fishing vessel.

The commandos found guns and other “paraphernalia” on board the dhow and a handful of terrified pirates. The MoD said it was unclear whether the Yemeni who died had been shot by the Marines or was wounded from a previous incident involving the pirates.

From The Times Online, November 12, 2008