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NATO neutralizes 2 pirate mother ships off coast of Oman, Somalia

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

NAIROBI, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) — NATO’s counter piracy taskforce said on Monday it has successfully neutralized two ocean going dhows that had been pirated over the past three days off the coast of Somalia and Oman.

NATO’S Counter Piracy Task Force 508 said the two ocean going dhows were subsequently being used as mother ships from which Somali pirates were intending to launch attacks on merchant shipping in the sea lanes off Somalia and the southern Arabian coasts.

NATO said in the first incident last Friday, the USS Carney acting on intelligence from other counter piracy forces intercepted the Indian flagged dhow AL Qashmi off the south western coast of Oman.

“Following the dhow until it was safe to intercept her, the USS Carney carried out a text book approach to persuade the suspected pirates that they should stop and allow a compliant boarding of the dhow,” the taskforce said in a statement.

It said the dhow the USS Carney’s Board and Search Team quickly discovered once aboard that all evidence of potential piracy had been disposed of and questioning of the dhow’s crew revealed that they had been hijacked with the nine suspected pirates launching from a different dhow.

The suspected pirates were released into their own boats and given sufficient fuel, provisions and water to make the passage back to Somalia. The crew of the AL Qashmi were offered assistance and then allowed to go about their lawful business,” it said.

Maritime officials said since Kenya launched its cross border incursion in Somalia last October, ransom demands on captured ships demanded by pirates have reduced drastically.

Shipping experts said that the amount of ransom demanded by pirates for vessels had dropped by about 50 percent and could fall further in coming days once “Operation Linda Nchi” (Defend the country) is completed.

According to NATO, the second incident took place on Jan. 7 several hundred nautical miles away to the southwest and close to the Somali coast when another dhow of Iranian nationality, was identified as a potential pirate mother ship by the Danish warship HDMS Absalon.

Having tracked the dhow through the night at first light, the Absalon launched her helicopter and confirmed that the dhow was carrying fast boats that were unusual to that type of dhow but of the type widely used by pirates.

According to NATO, Absalon then closed the dhow to hail it but instead of stopping as requested it turned towards the Somali coast. In order to force compliance Absalon used warning shots to bring the dhow to a stop.

“With these two disruptions overlapping and many miles apart, NATO’s Counter Piracy Task Force has demonstrated its flexibility, reach, resolve and capability to work with other counter piracy agencies to provide security on the sea lanes of this large ocean, “ Commander of NATO Counter Piracy Task Force 508 Task Force, Rear Admiral (LH) Sinan Azmi Tosun said in the statement.

“Within the last two days, NATO has disrupted two piracy- related dhows with a total of 34 suspected Somali pirates now unable to engage in unlawful acts on the high seas. This is a severe loss of capability for the pirate organizers and I congratulate my units on a job well done,” he said.

NATO said the Absalon’s Board and Search Team was all ready to launch and were quickly dispatched to the dhow under cover of the helicopter before the suspected pirates were able to dispose of potential evidence linking them to piracy and this was subsequently seized along with the 25 suspected pirates.

It said the Boarding Team found 14 crew members, five Iranian nationals and nine from Pakistan who were taken aboard the Absalon to be interviewed and for medical checks, though there were no injuries sustained in the use of warning shots or during the boarding operation.

The 25 suspected pirates have been detained onboard HDMS Absalon pending further investigation and to ascertain if they can be prosecuted and a decision on that will be made in the next few days.