Thu, Dec 18, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Chinese sailors fend off Somali pirates after UN council okays land operations

AFP , MOGADISHU

Chinese sailors backed up by international navies fought off Somali pirates trying to hijack their ship yesterday, one day after the UN authorized land operations against the increasingly bold bandits.

The dramatic high-seas encounter was among a fresh wave of attacks by pirates in the Gulf of Aden, where three other ships were hijacked on Tuesday, as China considered whether to send warships to the pirate-infested waters.

A band of pirates boarded the Chinese-owned vessel Zhenhua 4 yesterday, but the sailors prevented them from invading their crew accommodation for several hours — enough time to seek help from the coalition forces.

“I’m actually very surprised that the crew managed to hold back the pirates. I don’t know how they did it, but they did it,” said Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur.

“Because of this action, the military helicopters came and they managed to chase the pirates away. The pirates on board eventually left the ship and the master is proceeding on his course,” he said.

The rescue of the Chinese crew was the latest successful intervention from the newly created EU naval task force, which took over patrols off the Horn of Africa from NATO on Dec. 8.

But Somali pirates managed to capture three other ships in the Gulf of Aden on Tuesday, said Andrew Mwangura of the Kenyan chapter of the East African Seafarers Assistance Program.

The pirates seized a yacht crewed by just two people and two commercial ships: a cargo vessel and a tug serving as an oil industry support ship, Mwangura said.

Choong also said pirates had hijacked a Turkish cargo ship, a Malaysian tug boat and attacked three other vessels in the Gulf of Aden in the past week.

Deputy Chinese Foreign Minister He Yafei (何亞非) said his country may also send warships to fight piracy off Somalia, in what would be an unprecedented display of naval power far from its shores.

“China is seriously considering sending naval ships to the Gulf of Aden and waters off the Somali coast for escorting operations in the near future,” He was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.

The UN Security Council approved a resolution, cosponsored by Belgium, France, Greece, Liberia and South Korea, to give those nations already involved in battling pirates off Somalia a one-year mandate to act against them on land.

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