Spanish military helicopter fails to stop fleeing pirates

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A military helicopter fired at the pirates’ ship with the intention of disabling the motor but failed to stop them from escaping.

Madrid – A Spanish military helicopter fired on Somali pirates in a failed bid to stop them from fleeing after they released the Alakrana tuna trawler, Spain's top military officer said Wednesday.

"The helicopter opened fire in the direction of the bow and then the stern with the intention of disabling the motor," the head of Spain's joint military command, General Jose Julio Rodriguez Fernandez, told a news conference.

"But given the short distance from the coast, they managed to escape and reach land where it was not possible to identify them amongst the general population and the helicopter broke off its contact with them," he added.

The helicopter was on board one of two Spanish warships that monitored the tuna trawler throughout its hijacking, said Rodriguez Fernandez.

The Alakrana and its crew of 36 were allowed to head out to sea on Tuesday after more than six weeks in captivity under the protection of two Spanish warships.

The tuna trawler was released after a self-proclaimed pirate said they had been paid a USD 4 million (EUR 2.6 million) ransom.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero did not confirm if a ransom was paid, only saying that the "government did what it had to do."

Spain's main opposition Popular Party, which enjoys a slim lead over the ruling Socialists in opinion polls, on Wednesday stepped up its criticism of the government's handling of the seizure of the boat.

"The handling of the crisis before, during and after the hostage taking was calamitous," said PP leader Mariano Rajoy.

The PP will seek a vote of confidence in parliament against Defence Minister Carme Chacon, Justice Minister Francisco Camano and Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa de la Vega because of their "incompetence and improvisation".

De la Vega accused the PP leader of seeking "electoral dividends" from the hostage taking instead of welcoming the release of the ship and its crew.

AFP / Expatica

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