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Vessel released from pirate control; suspected pirate ship destroyed

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: Authorities board, clear and destroy suspected pirate ship
  • NEW: Weapons and other equipment were found on board
  • NEW: 9 suspects given oars to row back to shore
  • Panama-flagged vessel released from pirate control

(CNN) -- A multi-national maritime piracy task force said Monday that the crew of a British Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship boarded, cleared and destroyed a suspected pirate vessel off the coast of Somalia, sending nine piracy suspects rowing back to shore.

While conducting routine patrols, a helicopter identified a "suspicious whaler towing a skiff," Combined Maritime Forces said in a statement. "The whaler contained a significant amount of fuel barrels and when approached by the helicopter, four of the nine passengers tried to hide themselves from view."

Suspecting the vessel was involved in piracy, the crew of the ship Fort Victoria was allowed to board it. As Royal Marines approached, the suspected pirates attempted to flee for shore but were rapidly surrounded, the statement said. Authorities found they were carrying six AK-47s, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher with four warheads and six RPG booster charges along with hand-held GPS units, mobile phones and other equipment, Combined Maritime Forces said.

The nine suspects were transferred to the smaller skiff, and Royal Marines disabled the outboard engine and gave them oars, the statement said. Once they were safely ashore, "the whaler was rigged with explosives and destroyed along with other confiscated pirate paraphernalia."

"Contrary to the Hollywood legend, there is nothing romantic about pirates and piracy," said Col. Mark Gray of the Royal Marines and commander of the task force onboard the Fort Victoria in the statement. "It is a blight which has struck the shores of Somalia ... One cannot help but get a sense of satisfaction at the sight of a bunch of chastened suspected pirates being landed ashore, tails between their legs and the tools of their trade disappearing with a boom and a flash of flame."

A command team onboard the Fort Victoria believes that the suspected pirates were "almost certainly in the final stages of preparing to venture to sea in search of new targets before their activities were disrupted."

Combined Maritime Forces, a 25-nation coalition based in Bahrain, operates three task forces aimed at defeating terrorism, preventing piracy, reducing illegal activities and "promoting a safe maritime," the statement said.

Meanwhile, a Panama-flagged vessel, seized by pirates in April, was released from pirate control on Sunday, the European Union's anti-piracy naval force said in a statement Monday.

The MV Voc Daisy was released from Garacad, Somalia, EU NAVFOR said. It was hijacked on April 21 in the Indian Ocean, about 190 nautical miles southeast of Salalah, Oman, according to the statement.

The Liberian-owned bulk carrier has a crew of 21 Filipinos, "all of whom are reported in good health," EU NAVFOR said.

In June, authorities received word that the crew of a Libyan-owned merchant vessel, MV RIM, had retaken control of the ship from pirates. An EU NAVFOR helicopter was launched to provide assistance, but pirates on board the MV Voc Daisy attempted to impede the operation, the naval force said. When it was approached by an EU NAVFOR helicopter, the MV Voc Daisy changed course, and no warning shots were fired.

The Gulf of Aden and other areas off the coast of Somalia have seen frequent pirate activity.