Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cornwall frees pirate hostages after three-month ordeal

RAISING their arms in the air under the guns of HMS Cornwall, 17 Somali pirates surrender to the frigate – bringing to an end a 92-day reign of terror.
For this pirate ‘mother ship’ is actually a Yemeni fishing boat – with five of its crew held hostage by the 17 brigands since early November.
The fishermen have now been freed, the pirate skiffs (and all the associated piratical paraphernalia – ladders, grappling hooks, powerful outboard motors, fuel drums, weapons – sent to Davy Jones’ Locker) thanks to Cornwall’s boarding team.
The Fighting 99 responded to a distress signal from a South Korean merchantman after the Yong Jin spotted the dhow acting suspiciously.
The Type 22 stopped the battered vessel from attacking the Yong Jin, then prepared to board with the ship’s Lynx hovering overhead. It was, said Cornwall’s CO Cdr David Wilkinson, “a very slick operation”.

The team from Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines found 22 souls on board and plenty of evidence of pirate activity.
Further investigation revealed that five of the men were Yemenis, the rightful masters of the dhow. They’d been held prisoner by the Somalis since November 11.
The freebooters had then turned the dhow into their mother ship, ranging around the Horn of Africa, using three skiffs to carry out pirate raids.
“Our presence had a hugely-significant effect on the lives of the five Yemeni fishermen,” said Cdr Wilkinson.
“They’ve been freed from more than three months of pirate activity and can now return to their families.”
With no legal powers to detain the pirates, only to destroy their kit, the ship returned the Somalis to their native land before resuming her mission with Combined Task Force 151 in the Gulf of Aden.
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