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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Somali Pirates: Happy New Year, Same As Last Year

The pirates of the Gulf of Aden have started off the new year with, naturally, a ship seizure, as reported in Somali pirates seze Egyptian ship, though the good news is that capture of an Indian vessel was thwarted by a helicopter from an Malaysian navy ship:
Somali pirates seized an Egyptian cargo ship and its 28 crewmembers on Thursday while a Malaysian military helicopter saved an Indian tanker from being hijacked in the new year's first attacks by pirates in the dangerous Gulf of Aden.

Fifteen armed pirates snatched the Egyptian vessel, called Blue Star, after the ship exited the Red Sea and entered the gulf, carrying a cargo of 6,000 tons of fertilizer, according to Egyptian Deputy Foreign minister, Ahmed Rizq.

The pirates then steered the ship toward the coast of Somalia, Rizq said.

He said contacts were under way with "international and regional parties" to get the ship released -- which likely meant there were attempts to negotiate with the pirates.

In the other attack Thursday, a Malaysian military helicopter saved an Indian tanker carrying a full load of oil when it was attacked by two skiffs, one of which carried seven pirates dressed in military-style uniforms, said Noel Choong of the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center.

"They came close to the ship and started firing machine guns, hitting the bridge and the accommodation area," Choong told The Associated Press. The pirates, believed to be Somalis, tried to board the vessel several times while "firing repeatedly" but failed, he said.

The captain increased the ship's speed to maximum, made evasive maneuvers and sent an SOS, which was received by a Malaysian frigate, KD Sri Inderah Sakti, 15 nautical miles away, he said.

The frigate sent a light military helicopter, which arrived within minutes, and the pirates stopped firing and fled, said Choong.

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