Tuesday, October 11, 2011

UK and US forces 'rescue pirate-held Italian ship'

Montecristo  
Pirates boarded the Montecristo on Monday
British and US naval forces have rescued 23 hostages from an Italian ship hijacked by Somali pirates.
The 56,000-tonne bulk carrier Montecristo was hijacked 620 miles (1,000km) off Somalia on Monday, according to the owners.
The Royal Navy boarded the ship and met no resistance, before detaining 11 suspected pirates, the UK's Ministry of Defence said.
Italy's foreign ministry expressed "great satisfaction" with the rescue.
Members of the crew - seven Italians, 10 Indians and six Ukrainians - were said to be safe.
The D'Alessio Group-owned cargo ship, carrying scrap metal, had been making its way from Liverpool to Vietnam when it was intercepted by pirates.
However, crew members were able to lock themselves in a strong room from where they could control the engine and steer.
'Helicopter operation' Italian defence minister Ignazio La Russa said: "The criminals managed to cut off all means of communication, but the 'prisoners' tossed a bottle with a message through a porthole explaining the situation."
This gave an important signal the crew were out of harm's way and that an operation could be launched without risking injury, he told AP news agency, adding that helicopters were used in the rescue.
The suspected pirates would be handed over to Italian authorities, Mr La Russa added.

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All the expectations are that we will see more of this in the coming weeks and months because the monsoon season has ended ”
Mike Wooldridge BBC world affairs correspondent
A UK Ministry of Defence spokesman said the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Fort Victoria and a US frigate were sent to help the seized vessel.
"We can confirm that late this morning the RFA Fort Victoria, currently on Nato counter-piracy operations east of Suez, responded to calls to assist a pirated Italian merchant ship, the MV Montecristo, along with an American navy frigate," he said.
"Due to the presence of the warships, 11 suspected pirates on-board the pirated vessel surrendered without force."
Defence Secretary Liam Fox paid tribute to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel involved, and said the operation demonstrated the "global presence" of UK armed forces.
"Piracy puts lives at risk and costs the maritime industry millions of pounds every year. The Royal Navy is at the forefront of international efforts to battle this menace," he added.
Somali pirates are known to capture vessels in the Indian Ocean in the hope of obtaining a ransom for the safe return of crew members.
They are also believed to have captured Judith Tebbutt, a 56-year-old woman from Hertfordshire, in September. Her husband David was shot in front of her at a remote beach resort on the north Kenyan coast.
And in 2010, Paul and Rachel Chandler from Tunbridge Wells, were released after being held captive for more than a year.
The BBC's world affairs correspondent Mike Wooldridge said: "There are a number of international naval vessels trying to keep a watch over a very, very large area of the ocean."
Armed guards He said pirates were attacking vessels further afield than Somalia by using "mother ships" from which they launch smaller vessels.
"All the expectations are that we will see more of this in the coming weeks and months because the monsoon season has ended and over the last two or three years this has been the time when hijackings rise," our correspondent added.
Mr La Russa had earlier indicated that 10 teams of six marines could soon be stationed on Italian merchant vessels sailing in high-risk areas in a bid to combat piracy.
In July, Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham told a committee of MPs that limited resources in the light of current military commitments could not allow Royal Marines to do the same.
However, he said the government was considering allowing private armed guards to be posted on British merchant vessels.
Somalia has been gripped by fighting between various militias for two decades, so weapons are widely available and there are many armed groups who could be responsible for hijackings.
http://www.bbc.co.uk

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