Danish special forces storm cargo ship to thwart Somali pirate attack
Danish special forces stormed a Slovenian-owned ship and rescued the 25-strong crew yesterday in the first known case of Western forces intervening during an attack by Somali pirates, The Times reported.
The rescue began at dawn when the captain of a cargo ship named the Ariella sent out a mayday call, saying a skiff carrying six armed pirates was approaching his vessel 100 miles (160km) north of the Somali coast in the Gulf of Aden.
He also said that the ship was ringed by barbed wire, giving the crew time to lock themselves in a safe room with a VHF radio.
An Indian naval ship, the Tabar, picked up the signal and a French EU maritime patrol aircraft checked the vessel. It saw armed men and contacted the Danish warship Absalon, which was ten miles away.
When the Absalon was roughly a mile out a team of about ten Danish special forces were dispatched in an inflatable boat to free the Ariella. By the time they had scaled the sides the pirates had vanished. No shots were fired.
A Russian naval ship, the Neustrashimyy, picked up a second skiff carrying seven more pirates who were part of the attack on the Ariella but had not boarded her. It was unclear last night what would happen to those pirates. Russia could prosecute them, hand them over to the Slovenians for prosecution or transfer them to Kenya or the Seychelles.
"Absalon's action today demonstrates Nato's resolve to deter and disrupt piracy off the Horn of Africa," said Admiral Sir Trevor Soar, the commander of Nato's maritime headquarters in Northwood, London, who praised the co-operation between several navies.
French, American and other forces have stormed vessels hijacked off Somalia to free hostages before now, but they have never intervened during an attack.
Lieutenant-Commander Jacqui Sherriff, spokeswoman at Nato's maritime headquarters, said that the boarding was possible "because the crew were locked in a safe room and the pirates could not get access to them and we knew they were not going to get caught in crossfire".
Commander John Harbour, a spokesman for the EU naval force operating off Somalia, said that the Ariella was rescued because she was inside the 12-mile-wide Internationally Recognised Transit Corridor that runs for 500 miles through the Gulf of Aden and is protected by coalition warships.
Hijackings has fallen since the corridor was established. East of Somalia, however, where the Gulf opens into the Indian Ocean, they have risen.