Nato troops open fire on pirates

By Michael Logan Time of article published Apr 21, 2011

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Nairobi - Nato on Thursday said it had opened fire on a group of suspected pirates near the Somali coast after coming under attack - an incident that locals say left six dead.

Residents of the town of Hobyo said that a helicopter from an unidentified foreign navy ship on Wednesday evening opened fire on a small vessel, killing six and injuring five.

Nato said in a statement that the Danish warship HDMS Esbern Snare saw a pirated dhow heading toward a known pirate town and came under attack as it investigated.

“Without provocation, the suspected pirates then started to fire on the Nato boarding team,” Nato said. “As HDMS Esbern Snare returned fire in self defence, the crew put their hands up as if they were surrendering. As the boarding team approached the dhow for the second time, some of the suspected pirates then started to fire again.”

According to Somalia Report, a news site that recently overflew Hobyo and took pictures of captive ships, pirates are holding at least four foreign vessels north of Hobyo while they wait for ransom.

The firefight came as two other ships, the South Korean-owned Hanjin Tianjin and the Italian-owned Rosalia D'Amato, came under pirate attack.

The Rosalia D'Amato, with six Italians and 15 Filipinos on board, was seized, while the Hanjin Tianjin's crew escaped by locking themselves into the ship's strong room - known as a citadel - forcing the pirates to abandon their hijacking attempt.

Dozens of international warships patrol a massive area off Somalia, but they have been unable to prevent a growing number of successful attacks.

According to the International Maritime Bureau, 15 ships were seized off Somalia in the first three months of 2010, and the number of attacks - at 97 over the same period - were at an all-time high. - Sapa-dpa

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