Page last updated at 21:59 GMT, Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Navy shoots pirate suspects dead

By Caroline Wyatt
Defence correspondent, BBC News

Crew surrenders
The crew of the dhow surrendered after being circled by navy launches

The Royal Navy has repelled a pirate attack on a Danish cargo-ship off the coast of Yemen, shooting dead two men believed to be Somali pirates.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed the incident took place on Tuesday, when HMS Cumberland crew members tried to board a traditional wooden dhow.

The Yemeni-flagged vessel was identified as having been involved in an earlier attack on the Danish ship

An MoD spokesman said the pirates were shot in self-defence.

After initial attempts to stop the dhow failed, the Royal Navy launched sea boats to encircle the vessel.

The British seamen were fired on and shot back before the dhow was boarded and its crew surrendered.

Third death

An MoD Spokesman said: "Two foreign nationals, believed to be Somali pirates, were shot and killed in self-defence.

"A Yemeni national was also found injured and later died, despite receiving emergency treatment from the ship's doctor.

"It is unclear whether his injuries were as a result of the fire-fight or a previous incident involving the pirates."

A post-shooting investigation is being carried out, the spokesman added.

Details of the incident emerged when Russian navy spokesman Igor Dygalo revealed the frigate Neustrashimy (Fearless), from its Baltic Sea Fleet, had also tried to rescue the Danish vessel MV Powerful.

HMS Cumberland
HMS Cumberland is taking part in Nato anti-piracy operations

He said the two warships repelled the attempted raid after the pirates fired weapons at the Danish ship and twice tried to board it.

HMS Cumberland, a Plymouth-based Type 22 frigate, is currently deployed on a piracy-fighting mission in the Gulf of Aden as part of a Nato taskforce.

There has been a rise in attacks on merchant shipping and aid shipments in the area.

The boarding took place 60 nautical miles south of the Yemeni coast, inside the Maritime Security Patrol Area.

The MoD said the boarding operation was conducted "in accordance with UK Rules of Engagement".

Pirates have been causing havoc in one of the world's busiest shipping areas, making the waters off the Horn of Africa some of the world's most dangerous.

The pirates prey on one of the world's key shipping routes, which leads to the Suez Canal, the transit point for up to a third of the world's oil.

Rocket grenades

Pirates have hijacked more than 30 ships so far this year, twice as many as last year, with the ransoms paid to them by governments or ship-owners far higher than in previous years.

The pirates are equipped with speedboats and armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.

They have taken millions of dollars in ransoms and their actions have led to a hike in insurance costs for shipping and threatened humanitarian supplies.

A Turkish-flagged tanker with a 14-man crew became the latest victim of the pirates when it was hijacked off Yemen on Wednesday, according to the Anatolia news agency.

Last month, a maritime watchdog said that Somali pirates were responsible for nearly a third of all reported attacks on ships.

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