Four Chinese fishermen were killed and three injured when they were attacked and robbed by pirates in disputed waters of the South China Sea, state press reported yesterday.UPDATE: (5/2/06) There is a claim that the attackers were on a boat that "looked Filipino."
The attack happened on Thursday near the southern reaches of the Spratly Islands archipelago, when the men from “an unidentified foreign country” boarded the fishing boat, the Southern Metropolitan Daily reported.
According to accounts of the survivors, the pirates first dispatched a smaller vessel with four men, who boarded the fishing boat, produced a weapon and began ordering the fishermen to gather on the deck, the report said.
When the fishing boat tried to depart the area, gun shots were fired and a larger armed vessel pulled alongside and began spraying the Chinese boat with machine gun fire, killing four crew members and wounding three others.
After taking control of the Chinese boat, 13 pirates boarded the fishing boat and robbed it of all its equipment, including its radios and navigational equipment, the daily said.
Following the attack, the fishing boat headed back to China’s southern island of Hainan, encountering another vessel en route that radioed for help.
China’s agriculture ministry, which oversees the nation’s fishing industry, has dispatched boats to the area to investigate the attack, the report said.
The Spratly Islands consist of more than 100 small islands or reefs that are claimed partially or entirely by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
"The incident occurred close to the Philippines and the boat that attacked the fishing boat... resembled a Philippine boat," the Southern Daily newspaper reported, citing crew members aboard the Chinese fishing boat.
The attack occurred Thursday last week in the disputed Spratly Islands when people from the unidentified boat sprayed the fishing vessel with sub-machine gun fire and boarded the craft.
Four crew members were killed in the attack, with the assailants stealing the boat's navigational and electronic equipment.
"Of the 13 pirates who boarded the fishing boat, most were under the age of 30, six of them wore camouflage clothes while the other seven were casually dressed," the fishermen told the newspaper.
"The attack appeared to be organized."
The report gave no other details to back up its assertion that the boat resembled one from the Philippines.