A Royal Navy team has successfully stormed a vessel seized by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden and rescued five Yemeni fishermen who had been held hostage for three months.
Described by the The Ministry of Defence as a pirate “mother ship” the pirates had used the Yemeni vessel as a base from which to mount attacks in three smaller craft.
The group of about half a dozen sailors and Royal Marines, dispatched from a British warship that is part of an anti-piracy mission in the region, found and destroyed several weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades.
The pirate vessel, a dhow, was returned to the rescued Yemeni crew, who were able to make their way home, while the 17 pirates were taken aboard HMS Cornwall and deposited in Somalia, where they were released. Under international law, Britain does not have the jurisdiction to arrest suspected pirates unless attacked.
Commander David Wilkinson, commanding officer of HMS Cornwall, said: “Our presence in the area has had a hugely significant effect on the lives of five Yemeni fishermen, who have been freed from over three months of pirate captivity and can now return to their families. In addition we have restored a merchant vessel to legitimate use on the high seas.”
He added: “My highly trained team has conducted a very slick boarding operation which has ensured that this pirate vessel is no longer able to operate.”