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Ship’s crew seize back control from Somali pirates: EU

The crew of a Libyan cargo ship seized back control from Somali pirates on Wednesday after fighting in which some of their captors are believed to have died and a crew member was wounded, the EU said.

“The hijacked Libyan-owned merchant vessel RIM reported that the crew had successfully retaken control of the ship. One of the crew members was seriously injured during the incident,” a spokesman for the EU anti-piracy NAVFOR naval force said.

“It is believed that some of the pirates were killed during the incident; the ship is now under the control of the crew,” added NAVFOR, which sent a warship to offer help and administer medical aid to the survivors.

The mainly Syrian crew of 10 had been taken captive in February and their assailants were demanding three million dollars in ransom for their safe return.

The 4,800-tonne vessel, owned by Libya’s White Sea Shipping, was attacked in the northwestern Gulf of Aden, south of the Yemeni coast.

It had set off from Romania with a crew of nine Syrians and a Romanian with an unspecified cargo.

The Romanian Foreign Ministry, in a statement, said there was an “altercation” with the pirates which resulted in “injuries to two crew members including a Romanian sailor.”

The situation is under control and the Romanian is in “stable condition,” the ministry said.

A Spanish navy frigate in the area, the Victoria, raced to the aid of the North korean-flagged cargo ship to provide first aid to the injured crew, the Spanish defence ministry said.

A helicopter deployed from the frigate foiled an attempt by the pirates to recapture the cargo ship, it said in a statement.

“The pirates ceased their attempt in the wake of the warnings issued from the Spanish helicoper,” the statement said.

The Victoria is part of a team of European Union warships that carry out patrols off the coast of eastern Africa and Arabia by European Union warships to deter hijackings as part of Operation Atalanta which began in December 2008.

The crew of the MIR turned the tables on their captors as the ship was southeast of Garacad, off Somalia’s northern coastline, NAVFOR said.

Somali pirates have become a chronic hazard for shipping in the region. They hijack vessels exclusively for ransom payments, which are regularly made.

The news of the successful action by the RIM’s crew came shortly after NAVFOR reported that assailants armed with rocket-propelled grenades hijacked a Panama-flagged cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden with 24 crew from Bangladesh, Ghana, Egypt and Pakistan, also on Wednesday.