For the second day in a row, US forces have apprehended pirates in the Gulf of Aden, treacherous waters off the Somali coast where US and international forces have been battling pirates preying on international vessels.
The US Navy said it apprehended nine suspected pirates on Thursday after responding to a distress signal from the Indian-flagged vessel Premdivya, which said it was fired upon by men in a nearby skiff who were trying to board their vessel.
In a statement from the 5th Fleet’s Bahrain headquarters, the Navy said a helicopter from the USS Vella Gulf fired two warning shots at the pirates to stop them from fleeing.
When authorities boarded the skiff and searched it, they found weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades, and the suspected pirates were taken aboard the USS Vella Gulf.
A day earlier US forces operating in the area arrested seven suspected pirates — the Navy’s first arrest since a new US anti-piracy task force was established this year.
The seven pirates apprehended on Wednesday were transferred via helicopter from the Vella Gulf to the USNS Lewis and Clark on Thursday.
Associated Press television footage showed some of the men, all handcuffed and wearing leg shackles and white jumpsuits, being escorted from helicopters onto the ship.
The men, who were not allowed to talk to each other, were given a meal, a blanket and a towel and bar of soap with which to take a shower. With the help of a translator, US forces were trying to get information from the men such as their ages and nationalities.
The men were then to be taken to a makeshift holding area surrounded by razor wire, where they were watched by US forces.
The seven were apprehended after the US Navy responded to a distress call from the Marshall Islands-flagged Polaris, which said men in a skiff had tried to board their vessel using a ladder.
A US vessel raced to the location where US troops apprehended the pirates, who were armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades.
Associated Press television footage also showed pictures of the boat the men used while trying to take the ship hostage, a small skiff that was lifted by crane onto the Lewis and Clark.
Lieutenant Nathan Christensen, a spokesman for the 5th Fleet, said the seven would eventually be handed over to Kenya. The US announced an agreement last month allowing for suspected pirates to be handed over to Kenya.
Officials are gathering more information and evidence on Thursday’s incident so they could turn the suspects over to authorities for prosecution, most likely also to Kenya as well, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.