Danish warship frees 18 hostages after skirmish with pirates off Somalia coast

10:50, April 12, 2011      

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A Danish warship has rescued 18 hostages, and captured 15 suspected pirates from a vessel off Somalia's coast, the Royal Danish Navy's Operational Command said Monday.

The hostages, including 16 Pakistani nationals and 2 Iranians, were rescued by Danish warship HDMS Esbern Snare, currently part of a NATO-led anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden.

According to a statement released by the Danish Navy, the warship stopped and boarded a suspected pirate mother-ship on April 2. The warship's helicopter and special maritime action team were also deployed.

"Despite warning shots, the pirates opened fire on the [ special] team, following which the team, returned fire," the statement said.

Three pirates were wounded in the fight and later treated by doctors from the Esbern Snare and the Dutch warship Tromp, the statement added. No Danish soldiers were hurt.

In all, 15 suspected pirates were captured and are currently being detained on board the Esbern Snare. Their case has been transferred to Denmark's Public Prosecutor for Serious International Crime.

The Danish Navy said a cache of items "related to piracy" were found on board the vessel. This includes "14 grenade launchers, 9 machine guns (AK-47s), 2 large boxes of ammunition for machine guns, 5 hand grenades, 6 ladders and 3 pirate attack boats (skiffs) with powerful outboard motors."

The mother-ship was originally an Iranian fishing vessel, and the 18 rescued hostages have turned out to be its crew. They returned to their ship on Saturday, after requesting to be allowed to sail home.

The statement said the action was part of a NATO operation to prevent pirate mother-ships from attacking merchant ships sailing far-out from Somalia's east coast. Piracy has been growing in recent months as the monsoon season gives way to better weather.

Somalia has become a home for pirates due to its lack of a functional government. The pirates are believed to make millions of dollars by capturing and ransoming ships and crews.

Source: Xinhua
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