NATO forces foil pirate attack on tanker

Sun Apr 19, 2009 4:55pm EDT
 
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By Alison Bevege

ON BOARD NRB CORTE-REAL (Reuters) - NATO forces foiled an attack by Somali pirates on a Norwegian oil tanker, and briefly detained seven gunmen after hunting them down under cover of darkness, NATO officials said on Sunday.

It was the latest assault by sea gangs from Somalia who have hijacked dozens of ships, taken hundreds of sailors hostage and made tens of millions of dollars in ransoms -- defying an unprecedented deployment by foreign navies in the region.

The violence has disrupted aid supplies, driven up insurance costs and forced some companies to route cargo round South Africa.

Michael McWhinnie, a spokesman on the Canadian warship Winnipeg, said it, a British naval supply ship and U.S. warship Halyburton all responded after pirates attacked the 80,000-tonne MV Front Ardenne in the Gulf of Aden late Saturday.

The gunmen, who were armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, fled south in their skiff as the NATO forces approached, dumping most of their weapons overboard.

McWhinnie told Reuters a helicopter dispatched by the Winnipeg fired several warning rounds in front of the pirates' small craft from its machinegun, but they ignored it.

The Canadian warship then pursued them for hours through the night, extinguishing its lights to hunt the gang in the dark.

"We blocked their path. We were faster and surprisingly more maneuverable than the pirate skiff," McWhinnie said by phone from the Winnipeg to the Corte-Real, a Portuguese warship that is also part of NATO's anti-piracy mission in the area.   Continued...

 
<p>A U.S navy marine stands on guard on the deck of the warship Bainbridge guard upon arrival at the port of Mombasa, 500km from the capital Nairobi, April 16, 2009. NATO forces foiled an attack by Somali pirates on a Norwegian tanker then briefly detained seven gunmen after hunting them down under cover of darkness, NATO officials said on Sunday, April 19. REUTERS/Antony Njuguna</p>