Entries in Pirates (10)


Dutch Warship Destroys Pirate 'Mother Ship'

NATO(NEW YORK) -- Somali pirates may not be as active as they once were in the waters off of east Africa, but they still pose a significant danger to anyone who crosses their path. As a group of alleged pirates learned Wednesday, however, AK-47s are no match for the power of a NATO warship.

Early Wednesday, the crew of the Dutch warship HNMLS Rotterdam spotted a dhow close to the Somali shoreline. Because these kinds of fishing vessels are often used as "mother ships" for pirate crews, a boarding team was routinely dispatched to inspect the vessel.

As the boarding party neared the dhow, the Dutch sailors took sustained gunfire from both the dhow and fighters on shore. The boarding party returned fire and very quickly the dhow ignited in flames and those aboard jumped in the water to escape the blaze. The firefight killed one person aboard the dhow.

The Rotterdam's crew rescued 25 men from the ocean, but the rescue effort proved dangerous as the gunmen on shore continued to fire at both the boarding party and the Rotterdam.

None of the Rotterdam's crew was injured in the incident, though the rigid-hulled boat the boarding party was using sustained damage.

The suspected pirates received medical attention and are now being detained aboard the Rotterdam, which serves as the flagship for NATO's counter-piracy task force off the waters of Somalia, known as "Ocean Shield."

"We know that pirates are increasingly using larger dhows as mother ships. Therefore we routinely inspect them," said Commodore Ben Bekkering, commander of the NATO task force. "In this instance the pirates openly chose confrontation. This does not happen often and it indicates that we are indeed impeding their operations and in doing so, pushing them to take more extreme options."

Somali pirate activity usually decreases during the monsoon period that has just ended, but the drop this year has been especially steep. Only 35 vessels have been attacked so far in 2012 and only five vessels have actually been seized by pirates. In 2010 pirates launched 174 attacks and seized 47 vessels.

The stunning drop in pirate activity is attributed to the continued presence of counter-piracy task forces and the growing use of private security forces aboard commercial vessels.

In addition to the NATO task force, there are two other international naval task forces patrolling the waters off East Africa. One is a U.S. organized force of coalition countries, the other a smaller naval force from European Union member countries. In May, the EU force was given the authority to conduct operations against land-based pirate operations in Somalia.

After Wednesday's attack, Commodore Bekkering said, "It is obvious that the scourge of piracy has not gone away and we need to maintain our vigilance."

The danger remains for the 143 merchant sailors still being held for ransom by Somalia's pirates. Some of these sailors have been held for more than two and half years.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Cruise Ship Adrift in Pirate-Infested Indian Ocean

LAURENT FIEVET/AFP/Getty Images(NAIROBI) -- More than a thousand people are awaiting rescue on the Costa Allegra cruise ship after a fire broke out on board, causing the luxury liner to lose power.

The ship is adrift in the Indian Ocean more than 200 miles from the Seychelles island nation off mainland Africa, an area that is infested by pirates.

This is the second emergency situation this year for Costa Cruises, which is owned by Carnival Cruises. In January, 32 people were killed when the Costa Concordia capsized after hitting rocks off the Italian island of Giglio. Seven people are still missing and presumed dead.

The Italian cruise line released a statement saying no one was injured, and the blaze that broke out in the engine room in the ship's aft was quickly extinguished. A spokesman for the Italian coast guard said the Seychelles Navy is sending rescue vessels-- including tugboats-- and a plane that has spotted the Allegra's location.

"The passengers and crew are in safe condition," said Commander Cosimo Nicastro of the Italian coast guard. "They are not necessarily comfortable because the ship only has emergency power on board, but they are safe."

"The winds right now are blowing at about 25 knots but we are not worried because it is a big ship, so the weather is not a concern," Nicastro said.

Eight U.S. citizens are aboard the ship that left Madagascar on Saturday and was supposed to reach the Seychelles on Tuesday. The Allegra is carrying 636 passengers and 413 crew members on a nearly month-long cruise with numerous stops at island nations off the east coast of Africa along the way to Savona, Italy.

Costa Cruises says crews are inspecting the engine room hoping to restart the equipment necessary for the ship to become operational.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Negotiating Release of American Writer in Somalia

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Days after the rescue of a U.S. aid worker held hostage in Somalia, officials are now working on the release of an American writer taken captive by pirates and now under the threat of death.

The writer was only supposed to be in the country for a few weeks to work on a book on piracy, though he’d reportedly been warned of the dangers he faced. On Saturday, he was grabbed by heavily armed men who’d overpowered his security.

At his family’s request, ABC News is withholding his name because relatives believe identifying him would increase his value to his abductors. A U.S. official told ABC News Friday that there was great concern for any American held hostage, but that there was hope the writer would be released unharmed.

The kidnapping occurred days before American aid worker Jessica Buchanan and Danish colleague Poul Hagen Thisted, 60, were rescued by SEAL Team 6 in a daring mission at a remote encampment deep in northern Somalia.

Buchanan is currently at a U.S. base with her family, but her rescue early Wednesday seemed to put the American writer in greater danger.

“If they try again, we will all die together,” a spokesman for the pirates said. The pirates have changed locations three times.

A U.S. official told ABC News Friday that the United States was aware of the writer’s abduction when Buchanan was rescued.

“We did know but could not find any links or collusion between the two groups holding the hostages,” the official said Friday.

Early last year off the coast of Oman, four Americans were hijacked aboard their yacht. The FBI was negotiating their release when pirates launched a rocket-propelled grenade at a nearby U.S. ship.

A team of Navy Seals tried to rescue the Americans, but all four -- two couples from California and Washington -- were killed.

In 2010, 13 months after they were kidnapped by Somali pirates, British pair Paul and Rachel Chandler were released following the payment of an undisclosed ransom.

“That anger I felt that they were so cruel, so callous, just so despicable,” Rachel Chandler said at the time. “You have to find a way of dealing with that.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Somali Pirates Attack Spanish Warship and Lose

George Doyle/Thinkstock(MOGADISHU, Somali) -- Somali pirates may be terrorizing the waters off of East Africa, but maybe they should pick their targets a little more carefully and stop targeting European warships.

Earlier Thursday, some Somali pirates got a little too greedy and attacked the Spanish warship serving as the flagship for the European Union’s fleet of ships carrying out a counter-piracy mission off of Somalia.   

Needless to say, it wasn’t a fair fight.

At first light Thursday, the Spanish warship ESPS Patino had just completed escorting a ship carrying food aid into the Somali capital of Mogadishu.  In addition to a counter-piracy effort, the EU’s main mission is to escort freighters carrying food from the World Food Programme.  

That’s when a skiff carrying six pirates sped towards the warship and the pirates began to fire their light-caliber weapons at the ship in an attempt to board it.

The Patino’s crew immediately began to fire back in self-defense and launched the ship’s helicopter.

The pirates realized they were outgunned and broke away from the attack, but eventually surrendered to the helicopter -- but only after first throwing their weapons, ladder and fuel barrels overboard.

Somali pirates often dump their weapons into the ocean in an attempt to avoid detention.

Five of the pirates were injured and two required medical treatment on board the Patino. The crew of the Spanish warship is also looking into the pirates’ claim that another pirate was lost overboard during the attack.  

Taking on a warship might sound like a unique event but, amazingly, this isn’t the first time that Somali pirates have taken on a warship.  

In October 2009, a group of pirates attempted to take on the French warship BCR Somme about 250 miles off the coast of Somalia.

They met a similar fate to the pirates involved in Thursday’s incident and were detained after their unsuccessful attack.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Navy Rescues Iranians from Pirates

U.S. Navy(WASHINGTON) -- Despite rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran, the U.S. Navy rescued more than a dozen Iranian sailors who had been held at sea by a band of pirates for weeks, the Pentagon announced Friday.

According to the military's account, an American helicopter from the destroyer USS Kidd "detected a suspected pirate skiff alongside" an Iranian-flagged fishing ship Thursday. At the same time, the Iranian ship was able to send a distress call, claiming the ship was held by pirates.

American Navy sailors with a "visit, board, search and seizure team" then boarded the Iranian ship and were able to detain 15 suspected pirates and free the 13-member Iranian crew, the Pentagon said. A Navy Criminal Investigative Service agent on the scene, Josh Schminky, said the Iranian crew had been forced to help the pirates carry out operations in the Persian Gulf and pirates had apparently been using the Iranian ship as a "mothership".

"When we boarded, we gave [the Iranians] food, water, and medical care," Schminky said in a Pentagon report. "They had been through a lot. We went out of our way to treat the fishing crew with kindness and respect."

The pirates were detained and were taken aboard the USS John C. Stennis, an aircraft carrier at the center of a six-ship strike group. A Pentagon spokesperson said it was unclear if the Iranian government was aware of the incident.

The rescue comes in the midst of an especially tense time between the U.S. and Iran. Last week, the Iranian navy carried out a major exercise in the Persian Gulf that reportedly included missile tests and surveillance of U.S. vessels in the area. An Iranian military commander then warned the U.S. on Tuesday not to send U.S. warships -- including the Stennis Strike Group -- back into the Persian Gulf following the Stennis' trip out of the Gulf to assist operations in Afghanistan.

"We are not used to repeating our warnings and we issue warnings only once," Iranian Army Commander Major General Ataollah Salehi said Tuesday, according to Iran's Fars News Agency.

Iranian officials also threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz in response to a new round of U.S. economic sanctions against Iran. The Strait of Hormuz, a narrow gap that links the Persian Gulf with the Indian Ocean, is the world's "most important oil chokepoint" due to the amount of Middle East oil that flows through it daily, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The Obama administration, however, dismissed the threats.

"It's the latest round of Iranian threats and is confirmation that Tehran is under increasing pressure for its continued failure to live up to its international obligations," White House press secretary Jay Carney said the same day as Salehi's comments.

On Friday, another Iranian military commander reportedly announced Iran planned to hold more naval exercises in the Strait of Hormuz next month.

Despite the recent Iranian blustering, Pentagon spokesperson Capt. John Kirby called Friday's rescue an example of "positive engagement" with the Middle Eastern nation, a sentiment reportedly shared by the ship's captain.

"The captain of the [Iranian vessel] expressed his sincere gratitude that we came to assist them," Schminky said. "He was afraid that without our help, they could have been there for months."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pirate 'Mother Ship' Found Off Somalia

George Doyle/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- When pirates attacked the Italian cargo vessel Montecristo in the Indian Ocean last week, crewmembers used a time-honored method to save themselves -- a message in a bottle, tossed from a porthole.

The British Navy got the message, sent commandos to storm the vessel, and rescued the 23 crew members, who had locked themselves in an armored area of the ship. Eleven suspected pirates surrendered to the Royal Marine commandos.

Now the British Navy has seized the pirate "mothership" that sent the pirates to attack the Montecristo. Royal Marines arrested four more suspected pirates and freed 20 members of a hostage crew who were manning a hijacked dhow for the pirates.

British vessels in NATO's counter-piracy force intercepted the "mothership" 200 miles off the coast of Somalia, origin of most of the pirates raiding international shipping near the African coast. Commandos scaled the side of the vessel in the dark and rounded up all 24 people aboard. The pirates had allegedly hijacked the dhow and forced its 20-member Pakistani crew to man the vessel while the pirates used it as a base to raid cargo ships.

According to the British, as the commandos closed in the suspected pirates were seen dumping weapons overboard and setting a skiff adrift. The men on the dhow were not able to dispose of all their weapons, however; a "large" cache that remained on board included a rocket-propelled grenade.

In searching the vessel, the commandos also found equipment looted from Montecristo. The four alleged pirates were turned over to Italian authorities on suspicion of attempting to hijack the massive ship.

The pirates intercepted Montecristo, a 56,000-ton vessel hauling scrap iron from England to Vietnam, on Oct. 11 more than 600 miles off the coast of Somalia. After the pirates boarded the vessel, the crew sent out a radio distress call that was heard by British and U.S. vessels in the area. The pirates then shut down radio communications.

As the NATO ships headed toward Montecristo, the crewmembers wrote a message stating that they were safe in an armored area of the ship, placed the message in a bottle with a flashing beacon, and tossed it out a porthole. When the British reached the Montecristo, they surrounded the vessel with commandos in rubber dinghies, and sent a helicopter to hover overhead. The suspected pirates surrendered immediately, according to the British Navy, and all 23 members of the cargo vessel's crew, including 10 Indians, six Ukrainians and seven Italians, were recovered unharmed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Travelers Should Beware of Pirates

Somali coastguards patrol for pirates off the coast of Somalia's breakaway Republic of Somaliland. TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images(HOBYO, Somalia) -- High seas pirates, which have preyed on tankers and cargo ships, are expanding and becoming an increasing menace to tourists and corporate travelers.

The most jarring example is a tactic that is a throwback to the days of sea raiders. Most recently, a wealthy British publisher David Tebbutt and his wife Judith were vacationing at a coastal Kenyan resort when they were attacked from the sea.

Tebbutt was shot dead and his wife was taken away by boat and is still missing. While the attackers have not been caught, some fear a Somali pirate gang could be responsible.

Michelle Bernier-Toth, the managing director for overseas citizens service at the U.S. Department of State, says that piracy is something that people should be worried about and should not be taken lightly.

Bernier-Toth also said that the geographic area covered by pirates is constantly growing. Private vessels, like yachts, often face greater risks than merchant marine vessels because they do not have the same security measures.

Business has been good for pirates, especially in the area of hostage and ransom operations. An average pirate ransom in 2008 was $1 million. In 2011, the average ransom is between $4 million and $5 million, according to the London-based International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center.
Due to this financial success, pirate attacks and kidnappings have been on the rise since 2008 and the numbers are staggering.

In 2011 alone, there have been 330 reported worldwide incidents of piracy. Over 50 percent of these have been Somali-related and occurred along the coast of the Horn of Africa in the Indian Ocean.

Right now, there are 16 vessels and 301 hostages being held by Somali pirates. While the majority of these are commercial vessels, since 2008, tourists from the United States, Germany, England and France have all been victims of pirate attacks.

Four Americans on a yacht were killed by Somali pirates in February 2011, marking the first time U.S. citizens have been victims.

Most experts advise travelers to stay out of known danger zones.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Maersk Alabama Targeted Again by Pirates

U.S. Navy(WASHINGTON) -- The Maersk Alabama was targeted again by Somali pirates Tuesday, a U.S. official tells ABC News. This is at least the third time the Alabama has been targeted by pirates, including the famous incident involving Captain Phillips in the spring of 2009.
The official says that four suspected pirates approached the ship in a skiff and a hook ladder was visible in the boat. When the skiff came within half a nautical mile the ship’s captain authorized warning shots to be fired. The pirates continued to approach and the captain ordered aimed shots, which convinced the skiff to turn around and sail away.
Had the ordered shots been fired, they would have been fired by contracted security on board, something that was added to the Alabama after the Captain Phillips incident.
According to NATO’s counterpiracy operation, an attempted pirate attack that matches the event described to ABC News occurred Tuesday in waters between Kenya and Madagascar. It warns that “a Pirate Attack Group consisting of one white skiff with four POB (persons on board) with hooks and ladder was reported” and that the pirates are still in the area.
In April 2009 the ship was hijacked by pirates who were overpowered by the crew, but not before they captured the ship’s captain, Richard Phillips, who was held for days in one of its lifeboats until Navy snipers killed his captors.
The second time was in September 2010, when, according to the London-based International Maritime Organization, five pirates armed with AK-47s in a skiff targeted the ship as it was sailing off the Somali coast.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐


Japanese Tanker, Crew Rescued from Pirates by US Destroyer

The Agency Collectiom/Stocktrek Images/Getty Images (file)(MANAMA, Bahrain) -- A U.S. Navy destroyer saved a Japanese-owned oil tanker from pirate capture this weekend east of Oman.

According to a press release form the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), the USS Bulkeley was able to save the 24-member crew of the oil tanker MV Guanabara. Four pirates were captured in the rescue.

The Bulkeley received a distress call from the tanker Saturday in the waters near Duqm, Oman. The CMF's counter-piracy mission, with assistance from Turkish warship TCG Giresun and NATO, secured the release of the ship and its crew early Sunday.

No gunfire was exchanged in the rescue.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Greek Oil Tanker Seized by Pirates in Gulf of Oman

File photo of an oil tanker. Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ATHENS, Greece) -- A Greek-flagged products tanker was seized by pirates in the Gulf of Oman Wednesday, according to European Union Naval Force Somalia.

The vessel, MV Irene SL, was on its way to Suez, Egypt from the Emirate of Fujairah when it was attacked.  It was reportedly carrying 266,000 tons of crude oil and had 25 crew members aboard -- including seven Greeks, one Georgian and 17 Filipinos.

Communication has been lost with the vessel and the condition of those aboard are unknown at this time.´╗┐

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio