Monday, May 4, 2009

Doh! Pirates Captured After Attacking the Wrong Ship

Via Times Online UK -

From a distance the large ship on the horizon looked like the perfect target, ripe for a successful spot of piracy.

But as the Somali pirates sped toward the vessel sailing near the Seychelles, they were horrified to see two boats and a helicopter set off from their target and launch their own counter-attack.

They had failed to spot, in the dazzling sun, that the 'merchant ship' they thought they were intercepting was, in fact, a French naval ship bristling with cannons, radar technology and armed commandos.

When the three pirate boats were spotted heading toward them the frigate Nivose, one of the ships patrolling the region as part of the European Union anti-piracy mission Atalanta, headed into the sun to camouflage its true identity before turning to confront its attackers.

When the boats were close enough, Lieutenant Commander Jean-Marc le Quilliec sent his commandos out on outboards, with a helicopter to provide air support.

The helicopter fired two warning shots to stop the three boats from fleeing and within minutes the 11 pirates had surrendered.

Two of the attack boats were small skiffs which the pirates used as attack vessels and the third was a nine metre (30 foot) mother ship, used to transport supplies such as petrol, water and food.

Only one pirate was left on board the mother ship which had nothing on board except fuel and potates, said Lt Commander le Quilliec.

"He apparently thought the pirates had hijacked us," he said.

The commandos found two Kalashnikov assault rifles on one of the skiffs, ammunition, a rocket-launcher and five grenades.

The 11 captured pirates, some of them very young, were ordered to sit on the deck with their hands on their heads as French forces searched them.

"The guys we catch are getting younger and younger," said one navy soldier. "Look at this one, he can't be 17."

A French navy spokesman confirmed the capture of 11 pirates.

"The pirates are currently on the Nivose," he said.

"For the moment we don't have any indication of what the European Union forces want to do with these pirates."

The world's naval powers are dispatching an ever-growing fleet of warships in response to a scourge which is threatening to disrupt one of the world's busiest maritime trade routes.

In a bid to avoid the patrols, some pirate groups have ventured further out into the Indian Ocean.

Several incidents have been reported recently in the Seychelles, a small Indian Ocean nation with a thriving tourist trade, which is a base for foreign fishing fleets.

On Sunday anoather three pirates were apprehended in Seychelles waters.

"The three men identified themselves as Somali. They were travelling in a six-metre skiff with several barrels of fuel and water onboard,'' said a Seychelles government spokesman.

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