A German military helicopter foiled an attempt by pirates to seize an Egyptian ship off the coast of Somalia on Thursday, swooping in to drive off the attackers after being alerted by a passing vessel.
The German success comes as more countries are sending warships to patrol off the chaotic Horn of Africa nation and the US is pressing for more assertive action against pirates, who have disturbed traffic on one of the world’s most important sea routes.
The Egyptian bulk carrier, Wadi al-Arab, with 31 crew members, was passing through the Gulf of Aden between Yemen and Somalia on route to Asia when gun-toting pirates in a speedboat began pursuing it, said Noel Choong of the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center.
A passing ship alerted the Kuala Lumpur-based bureau, which asked a multinational naval coalition force in the area to help, Choong said.
In response, the German navy frigate Karlsruhe dispatched a helicopter, a military spokesman said on condition of anonymity, citing policy.
The pirates fled as the chopper reached the vessel, according to a statement from the German military, but not before shooting and injuring one of the ship’s crew.
A second helicopter, carrying a medical team, retrieved the injured crew member, who is now receiving treatment on the Karlsruhe, the statement said.
After the attack, the Wadi al-Arab, continued on its way to South Korea, said Egyptian Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmed Rizq. A second German frigate responded to another emergency call on Thursday from a different ship in the gulf, the military said but gave no details on that incident.
Piracy has taken an increasing toll on shipping this year, especially in the Gulf of Aden, through which ships exiting or entering the Suez Canal must pass.