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Monday, November 08, 2010

Somali Pirates: Using big "mother ship" to attack Spanish warship escorting food vessel

SPS Infanta Cristina
(Hat tip to D.E. Reddick) As the headline in the website reads: "Pirates open fire on Spanish warship escorting food aid":
Pirates on-board a Japanese cargo ship they had hijacked in October opened fire with small arms against the Spanish frigate as it accompanied an aid ship destined for Somalia's capital, Mogadishu.

The Infanta Christina fired back after speeding up into a protective position between the pirates and the aid ship. The pirates then fled the attack, early on Sunday morning.

MV Izumi hijacked 10 October
"As the attack was carried out by a pirated merchant vessel with hostages on-board, the Infanta Christina had to defend herself and her escort with only minimal force in order not to endanger the lives of the hostages," the EU force said in a statement.

The Spanish warship was alongside the MV Petra 1, contracted by the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia to deliver food to Mogadishu.
Or, as the EU MSC(HOA) site reports:
During the night of November 6, the EU NAVFOR warship SPS INFANTA CRISTINA was attacked off the East coast of Somalia by a vessel identified as the MV IZUMI, a ship that had itself been pirated on 10 October.

MV Petra 1 during a previous escorted food delivery mission
The EU NAVFOR warship had been escorting the MV PETRA 1, which had been chartered by the African Union Military Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), at the time. This is the first ever attack on an EU warship conducting an AMISOM escort.

During the incident, the Spanish warship increased speed and maneouvred immediately in order to place herself between MV IZUMI and her escort. The attack was disrupted and the pirates fled the scene. Thanks to the quick reactions and efficiency of the Spanish crew, the attack was quickly foiled without injury or damage.

As the attack was carried out by a pirated merchant vessel with hostages onboard, the SPS INFANTA CRISTINA had to defend herself and her escort with only minimal force in order not to endanger the lives of the hostages. After the attack, the warship and her escort continued toward Mombasa, Kenya, without further incident.
Well, this is sort of the worst case situation that we've all been waiting for as the Somali pirates begin using captured merchant sailors as "human shields" as the pirates attack other vessels.

I think this is a dangerous turn of events, and I don't think it will end well.

UPDATE: Was this a terrorist-inspired attack on a warship? A Spanish newspaper reports it as a likely "mistaken identity" shoot out here caused by the dark and the "fog of piracy."
The pirates opened fire first against the Petra I. The Infanta Cristina (pictured) immediately accelerated and maneuvered to stand in front and protect the craft and then was also attacked by Kaslahnikov waving pirates, who, probably because it was the middle of the night, did not realise at first they were attaching a military ship of the European Anti-Piracy Operation. The Spanish soldiers responded first with warning shots, and then were forced to open fire with machine guns on the ship that was attacking them, according to sources with the Ministry of Defence.

The crew of the Infanta Cristina realised that the ship they were attacking was a hijacked merchant ship. Afraid that there were hostages on board, they ceased fire and broadcast to the pirates that they were firing on a European warship. The pirates then fled and the Infanta Cristina decided not to pursue them in order not to endanger the lives of the two dozen hostages aboard.

Report of MV Izumi hijacking here. And a reminder of the warning that the Izumi could be headed on a piracy mission here.


  1. D. E. Reddick10:00 PM


    Galrahn is suggesting that the attack against SPS Infanta Christina was carried out by Al Shabaab. So, instead of piracy it may have been a terrorism-like strike or blockade-like intervention aimed at the AMISOM mission vessel MV Petra 1. Which, considering matters - does make some sense. It's a food & supplies delivery mission to Mogadishu. How better to take the remaining enclave of the Somali government and overwhelm the African Union forces than to starve them out. Also, Galrahn suggests in a follow-up comment that the 'pirated' MV Izumi might have been attempting a ramming against the Spanish patrol vessel (former corvette, ex-frigate - Descubierta class at 1482 tons, full load). Any large displacement MV ramming any small displacement naval vessel is likely to destroy the warship (think HMAS Melbourne and a couple of unfortunate USN warships).

    Observing Al Shabaab's First Naval Operation

    Descubierta class corvette

  2. Good stuff, thanks. The BBC ORINOCO attack was also allegedly from the same mothership, but much closer to the Western limits of Bombay High. Thank you once again for this report.