International operation intercepts pirates off Somalia

29th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Japanese, EU and NATO forces cooperated on Sunday to intercept pirates who were preparing to attack ships in the Gulf of Aden, the NATO counter-piracy task force said.

A Japanese Maritime Self Defence (JMSDF) aircraft spotted a pirate skiff with seven suspected pirates on board and alerted a helicopter from the Danish warship Esbern Snare under NATO command, which intercepted the skiff.

"Subsequently the suspected pirates threw their weapons overboard and surrendered," a NATO statement, released in London, said.

An Italian helicopter from another vessel under NATO command provided support for the operation.

Crew members from an American warship, the USS Kauffman, also in NATO's counter-piracy operation, boarded the skiff and found a ladder pirates used to board ships "and other pirate-related paraphernalia," the statement added.

"Once again the cooperation between ships and aircraft from different counter-piracy forces has proven immensely valuable," the commander of the NATO counter-piracy task force, Commodore Christian Rune, said.

The Danish ship involved in Sunday's operation also helped to foil a pirate attack on Saturday in response to a call for help from a merchant vessel.

Naval missions have boasted success in curbing pirate attacks but the number of hijacked ships and detained sailors remains at one of its highest levels since Somali piracy surged in 2007.

Unofficial figures show 2009 was the most prolific year yet for Somali pirates, with more than 200 attacks -- including 68 successful hijackings -- and ransoms believed to exceed 50 million dollars.

The NATO counter-piracy operation, codenamed Operation Ocean Shield, and the EU anti-piracy command are based in the London suburb of Northwood.

© 2010 AFP

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