Russia probes Somali pirate shooting video: officials

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Russian prosecutors said on Friday they were probing a controversial video showing Russian marines pounding a small boat allegedly carrying Somali pirates with guns and artillery fire.

"Military investigators...have begun a pre-investigation probe in connection with a video clip making its way around the Internet and ostensibly showing Russian marines shooting a boat with Somali pirates with an artillery mount and guns," the Moscow-based investigators said.

The clip features several marines, some bare-chested, others wearing uniform, enthusiastically shooting from the deck of a naval ship at a white boat, thick black smoke billowing into the air.

Set to upbeat music, the clip mysteriously says at the end that no pirates have been killed. It was not possible to verify the authenticity of the clip.

"During the probe an expert examination of the video recording will be conducted with a view to establishing the location and date of the tape, an existence of editing and other technical details," investigators said in a statement.

"Individuals who have made and participated in the video clip as well as other circumstances are currently being established."

The Russian Navy's top boss, Vladimir Vysotsky, said Russian sailors could not have killed the pirates.

"This is nonsense," the state RIA Novosti news agency quoted him as saying. "Our marines are not people who would shoot someone at sea, not even pirates."

In one of the most notable high-seas dramas of the year, marines from the Russian destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov freed a Russian tanker from Somali pirates in a dawn operation in May hailed as exemplary by Russian defence experts and officials.

Russian officials have said the ten pirates were captured but then released to fend for themselves in an inflatable because prosecuting them would be next to impossible.

Prominent shipping expert Mikhail Voitenko has suggested however that reports about the pirates being set free in a boat could just be covering the possibility they had all been killed in the raid to free the Moscow University tanker.

© 2010 AFP

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