Page last updated at 11:36 GMT, Monday, 4 May 2009 12:36 UK

Seoul 'rescues' N Korean vessel


A South Korean helicopter chases a suspected Somali pirate ship

A South Korean navy warship has foiled a pirate attack on a North Korean cargo ship off Somalia's coast, military officials in Seoul say.

They say the South Korean destroyer sent a helicopter with snipers on board to drive away a pirate boat that was chasing the North Korean freighter.

Seoul says the pirates sped away from the North Korean ship after the snipers prepared to fire warning shots.

North and South Korea are technically at war following the 1950-53 conflict.

'Thank you' message

The military officials in Seoul said their warship had acted after picking up distress signals from the North Korean vessel on Monday.

The pirate boat came as close as 3km (1.8 miles) to the cargo ship when the navy helicopter arrived at the scene, an official with South Korea's Joint Chief of Staff's office told Reuters news agency.

South Korea said the crew on its warship had received a thank you message from the North Koreans after thwarting the pirate attack.

Seoul did not give any further details about the North Korean vessel or the nature of its cargo.

The South Korean destroyer has been escorting cargo vessels in the region since April.

Last year, pirates attacked more than 100 ships on a key shipping route, demanding huge ransoms for their release.

Their attacks have intensified recently, despite the presence of some 20 foreign naval vessels in the area to counter piracy.

Somalia has been without an effective administration since 1991, fuelling the lawlessness which has allowed piracy to thrive.

When first loaded, the map's focus falls on Somalia where most of the pirates are based. Use the arrow icons to scroll left towards Europe and the United States which are both playing a central role in tackling the problem.

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Xinhua News Agency Somali pirates seize German-owned ship with 11 Romanians aboard - 29 mins ago
Washington Post Somali pirates seize German-owned ship, 11 crew - 35 mins ago
CNN Shipping company chief wants arms - 3 hrs ago
ABC Online Pirates hijack cargo ship off Somalia - 9 hrs ago
Straits Times Cargo ship hijacked - 10 hrs ago

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