US Navy saves Indian ship, holds 9 pirates off Somalia

February 13th, 2009 - 12:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 13 (IANS) Responding to a distress call from an Indian-flagged commercial ship, the US Navy has arrested nine more suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia - the second capture in two days.

The Indian-flagged Premdivya sent a distress call at 4 a.m. local time to all ships in the area reporting that she had been fired upon by a small skiff, and suspected pirates were attempting to board it, according to a Navy announcement Thursday.

A US Navy helicopter crew was launched from the USS Vella Gulf and fired two warning shots at the small boat to get them to stop.

A navy boarding team was then launched to investigate the skiff’s crew and found rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons on board the small craft, according to navy officials.

The suspected pirates were taken aboard the USS Vella Gulf and processed. They’ll be moved to a temporary holding facility aboard the larger USNS Lewis and Clark, according to the statement.

The navy is now holding a total of 16 suspected pirates while the American and Kenyan governments work out legal details on how the suspects will be moved to Kenya for prosecution.

Last month, the US and Kenya signed an agreement saying that suspected pirates captured by US ships will be moved to Kenya to be tried for their crimes.

The capture Wednesday of seven suspected pirates marks the first time the US was able to capture and hold pirates since its forces began patrolling the dangerous waters off Somalia.

Piracy has become a chronic problem off the Horn of Africa in recent years, with some pirates operating from largely lawless Somalia. Pirates attacked nearly 100 vessels and hijacked as many as 40 in the waters off the coast of Somalia in 2008, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

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