British Navy kills three pirates off Somali coast
Royal Navy sailors killed three pirates off the Somalia coast in the first incident of lethal action being taken by the British against the growing problem of piracy.
By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent, and Damien McElroy – www.telegraph.co.uk
It is believed to be the first time the Navy has taken lives at sea since the Falklands War and possibly the first pirates it has killed in centuries.
Piracy in the area has become an increasing problem for ships transiting the Suez with a spiralling in insurance costs with the knock on effect of increasing the price of goods.
Fast sea boats from HMS Cumberland had been launched after the dhow refused to stop when it was positively identified as a ship involved in an earlier hijack attempt on a Danish ship.
But when the ratings from the Type 42 frigate began circling the dhow the pirates opened fire on them.
In an intense exchange of fire two Somalis were killed instantly by machine guns firing from the Navy boats.
Cowed by the accuracy of the fire the dhow crew surrendered. The sailors boarded the boat and found a seriously injured Yemeni pirate who was immediately treated by the Cumberland’s doctor but he died from his wounds.
“Various non-forcible methods had been used in an attempt to stop the dhow but they were unsuccessful,” a Navy spokesman said. “Sea boats were launched to circle the dhow in an attempt to encourage it to stop – these boats were fired at from the dhow and the crews returned fire in self defence.
“The dhow crew subsequently surrendered and a compliant boarding followed. It was then clear that two personnel, believed to be pirates, had been shot and killed.”
The Cumberland had chased down the dhow after it had attacked the Danish ship MV Powerful.
The Type 22 frigate is part of the British contribution to Nato mission providing security to shipping transiting the Gulf of Aden.
The Ministry of Defence said a post incident report would be carried out into the shooting which was “conducted in accordance with UK rules of engagement”.
Piracy in the Gulf of Aden has been a growing problem with more than a dozen commercial ships reported to be held by pirates along the Somali coast last month.
Commodore Keith Winstanley, the former Navy commander in the area, told The Daily Telegraph last month that civilian ships should be armed to deter attacks.
“We have never seen as many ships hijacked or crews held hostage. Last year they went for large fishing dhows or small coastal vessels well now they are attacking and seizing vessels over 70,000 tonnes,” he said.
With insurance rates for ships spiralling as the kidnappers move on to seizing major vessels – some the size of aircraft carriers worth $5 million (£2.85 million) or more in ransom – the problem is having an effect on international market prices.
Naval commanders in the Gulf have requested ray gun technology to disable pirates without triggering gunfights that could endanger hostages. US vessels patrolling the Gulf of Aden and other waterways plagued by resurgent pirate gangs are to be fitted with “non-lethal people zappers,” according to the Defense News publication.
Vice Admiral Bill Gortney has requested delivery of a range of systems for the Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet. The Active Denial system delivers a six foot wide ray over a range of 800 yards.
Anyone caught within the beam experiences an overwhelming sensation of burning skin, forcing a potentially hostile pirate to seek shelter “or even jump overboard.”