Mon, Mar 20, 2006 - Page 1 News List

US Navy arrests 12 pirate suspects after gunbattle


Two US Navy ships exchanged gunfire with suspected pirates on Saturday off the coast of Somalia, killing one suspect and wounding five others, the Navy said.

Twelve suspects, including the wounded, were taken into custody after the early morning gunbattle, said Lieutenant Commander Charlie Brown, spokesman for the US Navy's 5th Fleet.

The nationalities and identifications of the suspected pirates were unknown.

The shootout ensued after the Navy ships, patrolling the area as part of a Dutch-led coalition task force, spotted the suspect 10m-long fishing boat towing smaller skiffs and prepared to board and inspect the vessels, Brown said.

A statement from the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet said the suspected pirates were holding what look liked rocket-propelled grenade launchers. When the suspects began shooting, naval gunners on the US ships returned fire with mounted machine guns, killing one man and igniting a fire on the vessel.

The Navy boarding teams confiscated an RPG launcher and automatic weapons, the statement said.

Three suspects were seriously wounded and being treated on one of the Navy ships, Brown said. A Dutch Navy medical team was en route aboard the HNLMS Amsterdam.

The Navy said the incident involving the USS Cape St. George and USS Gonzalez occurred at about 5:40am, approximately 46km off the Somali coast.

The International Maritime Organization has warned ships to stay away from the Somali coast because of pirate attacks.

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