US, British forces free hijacked Italian ship off Somalia

11th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

British and US commandos on Tuesday freed an Italian vessel with a crew of 23, which had been hijacked by pirates off Somalia, Italy's defence and foreign ministries said.

"The vessel has been freed... thanks to the joint intervention of two ships from the United States and British navies," which had been operating as part of NATO's anti-piracy operations, Ocean Shield, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The pirates, said to be 11, "gave themselves up and are being held in detention," the statement added.

A spokesman for NATO's Allied Maritime Command Headquarters at Northwood in Britain confirmed that a NATO operation was underway off the coast of Somalia, but refused to say which countries' forces were involved.

The M/V Montecristo cargo ship was captured about 620 miles east of the Somali coast on Monday, with a crew of seven Italians, 10 Ukrainians and six Indian nationals aboard.

Earlier on Tuesday, Italy's shipowners association Confitarma announced that it was signing a protocol with the defence ministry which will allow military forces to travel aboard ships in dangerous areas to protect from pirates.

The protocol envisages that 10 teams of six Italian marines be made available to be stationed on vessels sailing in risk areas.

Pirates have hijacked several Italian vessels this year.

© 2011 AFP

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