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Saturday, March 18, 2006

US Navy Ships Return Fire on Suspected Pirates Off Somali Coast



Reported here:
Two U.S. Navy ships exchanged gunfire early Saturday with suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia in the Indian Ocean. The Navy says one suspect was killed and five others were wounded in the incident.

The U.S. ships Cape Saint George and the Gonzalez were conducting maritime security operations in international waters when they spotted a suspicious vessel towing two smaller boats westward along the coast of Somalia.

Commander Jeff Breslau, of the Navy's Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain, told VOA what happened next.

"As Gonzalez's boarding teams prepared to conduct a routine boarding of the suspect vessel, the ships noticed that a group of suspected pirates were brandishing what appeared to be rocket-propelled grenade launchers," he said. "The suspected pirates then opened fire on the Navy ships."

Commander Breslau says the two U.S. ships then returned fire with small arms in self-defense.

"In the exchange, one of the suspected pirates was killed and a fire ignited aboard the main suspect vessel," he added.

Twelve suspects, including the five injured, were taken into U.S. custody. A rocket-propelled grenade launcher and automatic weapons were also confiscated. No U.S. sailors were injured in the engagement, and there was only minimal damage to the American ships.

"Initial reports are that damage was limited to evidence of impact of small arms fire, but it won't interrupt the ships' mission at all," he explained.
AFP report puts "scare" quotation marks around "pirate."

UPDATE: Navy News Stand version here with pictures like those that follow:
Comment:
An armed suspected pirate looks over the edge of a skiff, in international waters off the coast of Somalia. USS Cape St. George (CG 71) and USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) prepared to board the suspicious vessel. The vessel’s crew members opened fire on the U.S. Navy ships and the ships’ crew members returned fire. One suspect was killed and 12 were taken into custody. Coalition forces conduct maritime security operations to ensure security and safety in international waters so legitimate mariners can operate freely while transiting the region. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Journalist Daniel Sanford (RELEASED)

Comment:
Confiscated weapons lay on the deck of guided missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71) following an early-morning engagement with suspected pirates. Cape St. George and USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) were fired upon while preparing to board a suspect vessel operating in international waters off the coast of Somalia. One suspect was killed and 12 were taken into custody. Coalition forces conduct maritime security operations to ensure security and safety in international waters so legitimate mariners can operate freely while transiting the region. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Journalist Daniel Sanford (RELEASED)

Comment:
Rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) and other armaments lay on the deck of USS Cape St. George (CG 71) after being confiscated during an early-morning engagement with suspected pirates. Cape St. George and USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) were fired upon while preparing to board a suspect vessel operating in international waters off the coast of Somalia. One suspect was killed and 12 were taken into custody. Coalition forces conduct maritime security operations to ensure security and safety in international waters so legitimate mariners can operate freely while transiting the region. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Journalist Daniel Sanford (RELEASED)

Comment:
A suspected pirate vessel ignites in flames before burning to the waterline. USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) and USS Cape St. George (CG 71) were conducting maritime security operations in international waters off the coast of Somalia and attempted to perform a routine boarding of the suspicious vessel towing two skiffs. The suspected pirates opened fire on the U.S. Navy ships and the ships’ crew members returned fire. One suspect was killed and 12 were taken into custody. Coalition forces conduct maritime security operations to ensure security and safety in international waters so legitimate mariners can operate freely while transiting the region. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Journalist Daniel Sanford (RELEASED)

Comment:
Evidence of small arms fire impact is visible on USS Cape St. George’s (CG 71) hull after suspected pirates opened fire on USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) and Cape St. George. The ships were conducting maritime security operations in international waters off the coast of Somalia and prepared to board a suspicious vessel towing two skiffs. The suspected pirates opened fire on the U.S. Navy ships and the ships’ crew members returned fire. One suspect was killed and 12 were taken into custody. Coalition forces conduct maritime security operations to ensure security and safety in international waters so legitimate mariners can operate freely while transiting the region. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Journalist Daniel Sanford (RELEASED)
UPDATE: (3/20/2006) Update here. Commanding Officer of Navy cruiser says pirates fired first.

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