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Suspected pirates turned over to Yemen

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Video supports Danish navy's explanation that it rescued men
  • Danish navy says its warship rescued seven men found in powerless skiff
  • It says they were found approximately 75 nautical miles off coast of Yemen
  • Yemen disputes navy's account, says its coast guard rescued the suspected pirates
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(CNN) -- Seven suspected pirates were in the custody of Yemeni authorities early Friday, after they were picked up in the pirate-plagued Gulf of Aden.

The French frigate Nivose escorts commercial ships in the Gulf of Aden on November 28.

International warships are now patrolling a vast area off the horn of Africa.

The Royal Danish Navy said one of its warships, the HDMS Absalon, rescued the seven men Wednesday after they were found in a powerless skiff with rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s aboard, navy spokesman Jesper Lynge told CNN.

They were found approximately 75 nautical miles (140 kilometers) off the coast of Yemen after a distress call, Lynge said.

A reporter on board the HDMS Absalon, Rasmus Tantholt, who works for Denmark's TV2, did not dispute the Danish navy's account.

Video from TV2 showing the rescue of the suspected pirates clearly supports the Danish explanation.

However, a Yemeni Interior Ministry official offered a different account of events, saying its coast guard rescued the suspected pirates Friday. The official said a coast guard patrol had detected a boat near a port near Balhaf, Yemen, and, believing its activity to be suspicious, chased it down.

The coast guard exchanged fire with the men on board the boat, the official said, and the Somali boat overturned.

The official said the coast guard rescued the men and took them into custody. Interrogation of the men led officials to suspect that they are Somali pirates.

Despite the Yemeni official's contention, video showed the lone skiff floating helplessly before the Danish sent a small boat to get the men. Once the men were rescued, the Danish navy fired at the skiff, destroying it.

Lynge said the men "had been without propulsion on their small boat for several days without food or drinking water."

After giving the men medical treatment aboard the Absalon, the ship's crew turned them over to Yemen's coast guard Friday morning, Tantholt said. The skiff's small engine was broken, and the Danish vessel sank the boat to prevent any hazard to sea traffic.

The men are suspected to be pirates because of the weapons on board, Lynge said. Pirates frequently use small boats to attack commercial vessels with small arms and grenades, but he said the Absalon crew could not connect the men "directly with another pirate attack in the area."

He said the skiff was found in Yemeni waters, and the Absalon crew was instructed to hand over the men to Yemen's coast guard.


Pirates have seized many ships in recent weeks in the waters of the Gulf of Aden, which separates Yemen from Somalia at the entrance to the Red Sea. So far this year, pirates have attacked almost 100 vessels off the coast of Somalia and successfully hijacked nearly 40, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

A multinational fleet -- including vessels from the United States, other NATO member states, Russia and India -- has been patrolling the Indian Ocean waters in the area. Around 20,000 oil tankers, freighters and merchant vessels pass along the crucial shipping route each year.

CNN's Katy Byron contributed to this report.

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