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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Alleged Somali pirates who engaged US Navy back in Somalia?

Remember the shootout between a couple of US Navy ships and some suspected pirates a couple of weeks ago (if not, go here)?

According to this, some of the "fishermen" have been repatriated to Somalia:
Somali men alleged with piracy who had recently been captured by US marines after they exchanged gunfire in the Somali water, have today been flown from Nairobi Kenya and brought back home by ICRC officials.
The men whose faces are in the expression of pleasure to resume their freedom reported about how they were caught by US marines in Somali waters.

Tahlil Hashi Elmi, one of US released men said they sailed from Harardere coast of Mudug region in central Somalia with two fishing boats and consisted of 13 fishers with automatic guns, which he said they were carrying it to defend against the enemy in the water.

He said when they had gone into the sea deeply they found themselves surrounded by navy war-ships by US marines and fired towards them and they replayed with firing against the ships.
“Two speedy boats got off the ship with US marines and attacked us and we tried to defend our selves but we could not maintain it for the fighting intensified and they destroyed our boats” he said “then we each captured by the US marines”
I note that the commanding officer of the cruiser Cape St. George told reporters that the suspected pirates waved RPGs as well as automatic weapons when two US Navy boats approached to inspect the suspected pirate vessels. And, the CO of the other Navy ship said the following:
In a phone interview on Monday, Cmdr. Robert Randall, the ship’s commanding officer, said the Gonzalez began tracking the suspicious three-boat tandem at 1:30 a.m. Saturday about 40 miles off the coast of Somalia.

The three small boats fit patterns that American and allied crews look for in searching for pirates “almost to a 'T,’ ” Randall said.

The Gonzalez, which killed its navigation lights to remain out of sight, followed the boats for three hours across 18 nautical miles in the darkness . Just before dawn, Randall ordered a pair of rubber inflatable boats, known as RIBs, manned with 18 sailors to board the suspected pirate vessels .

Randall said when the RIBs were within about 20 feet of the skiffs, they came under small-arms fire. The Americans shot back, then scrambled away as the Gonzalez and the Cape St. George hit the suspected pirates with machine gun fire. (source)
Also see here. The US Navy seems adamant that the Somalis fired first. The Somali statements above are too poorly translated to figure out whether they are alleging that the Navy fired first, however, mistake or not, if the "fishermen" even raised a weapon for any purpose other than dropping it over th side of their boats, they placed themselves in a position of great danger.

UPDATE: More here on the repatriation. Ten of 12 sent home now, with the two remaining still receiving medical treatment. Interesting conclusion:
The 12 were then screened for possible criminal activity and terrorists links, the statement said. The U.S. government later decided repatriation would be the most effective and appropriate course of action.
From the CentCom press release:
Cape St. George, a guided missile cruiser, and Gonzalez, a guided missile destroyer, were conducting maritime security operations in the area as part of Combined Task Force 150 when they spotted a suspect vessel towing two smaller skiffs bearing west toward the coast. The location and behavior of the skiffs were consistent with recent pirate activity in the area. As Gonzalez’s boarding teams prepared to conduct a routine boarding of the suspect vessels, the two Norfolk, Va.-based Navy ships noticed the group of suspected pirates were brandishing what appeared to be rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launchers.

The suspects opened fire on the boarding teams, which prompted a lethal response by U.S. forces.
During the engagement, one Somali was killed and a fire ignited aboard the main suspect vessel. That vessel was destroyed by the ensuing fire. Boarding teams from Cape St. George and Gonzalez took the 12 Somalis involved in the incident into custody. The Navy boarding teams confiscated an RPG launcher, automatic weapons, and the two remaining skiffs. No U.S. Sailors were injured in the engagement.
The Navy ships immediately provided medical treatment to the wounded suspects. Royal Netherlands Navy medical personnel, including a medical doctor, from HNLMS Amsterdam also assisted.

UPDATE2: Waving weapons at US Navy ships? Maybe they were too dumb to keep...

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