|HMS Somerset's Merlin helicopter fires warning shots across the bow of the pirate dhow [Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Dave Jenkins, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]|
Royal Marine Commandos staged a daring raid freeing 20 sailors held hostage on a pirate 'mothership' afloat in the Indian Ocean, it was revealed today.UK MOD report, with more pictures, here:
Backed by gunfire from a Merlin helicopter, a boarding team stormed the cargo vessel, which had been hijacked by pirates to use as a base to attack merchant shipping in the area.
'Through my weapon sight I could see dark figures moving in the shadows on the bridge,' said Captain Rod Yapp, who led the assault.'We quickly boarded and secured the dhow, then mustered the 24 occupants on her bow.'
It is believed the dhow was hijacked by suspected pirates so that they could use it as a base, or mother ship, from which to launch attacks against merchant ships many hundreds of miles from Somalia. Throughout this time, the Pakistani crew of the dhow were held hostage onboard.
On Friday 14 October, some 200 miles (320km) off the coast, HMS Somerset and RFA Fort Victoria closed in on the dhow.
HMS Somerset's Commanding Officer, Commander Paul Bristowe, said:
"The mother ship was located by Somerset's Merlin helicopter at first light and the boarding teams brought to immediate notice whilst Somerset closed with the dhow."
In the run up to being boarded, the suspected pirates were observed by Somerset's Merlin helicopter ditching equipment and weapons overboard as well as setting one of their skiffs adrift. Despite their desperate attempts to cover their tracks, a large cache of boarding ladders, weapons, a second attack skiff, and equipment from a previously pirated ship were found onboard.
Captain Yapp said:
"There was a clear indication that the suspected pirates found on the dhow were well-practised and knew what they were doing. One of the weapons had recently been fired and was well maintained - as was the RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] rocket.
"I think that if we hadn't disrupted this group of suspected pirates, it is quite possible that they would have attacked another merchant vessel."