MANAMA, April 5, 2010 (AFP) - A Danish tanker escaped a pirate attack in the Gulf of Aden after a French patrolling aircraft forced the Somali attackers to flee, the multi-national anti-piracy force said Monday.
The tanker MV Torm Ragnhild sent a distress call after pirates on two skiffs fired rifles and rocket-propelled grenades at it along an "internationally recommended transit corridor" on Sunday, the Combined Maritime Forces said.
A nearby French aircraft flew to the location where the Danish-flagged ship was trying to evade the attackers by speeding up, zig-zagging and spraying its fire hose, it said in a statement.
"The skiffs broke off their attack after sighting the aircraft," it said, adding a Japanese aircraft spotted the pirates' mother ship in the vicinity, identifying it as an Indian-flagged dhow named Safina Al-Gayatri.
The Turkish warship TCG Gelibolu shadowed the Safina as it carried the skiffs to Somalia's coast, where the pirates abandoned the dhow, said the force, which is based with the US-Navy 5th Fleet in Manama, Bahrain.
|A handout photo made available on April 4, 2010 by the EU Navfor Somalia shows the EU Navfor warship HNLMS Tromp (L) as pirate boats on April 2 try to make on approach on it. AFP photo|
"Everything went like clockwork. The operation was professionally executed, and another piracy attack was successfully prevented," said the task force's commander, Singaporean Rear Admiral Bernard Miranda.
"The Gulf of Aden and the Somali Basin is a huge area... Close coordination and cooperation is extremely critical to optimise the counter-piracy resources in the area," he said in the statement.
The narrow escape came after a South Korean oil tanker with 24 crew members on board was seized in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday as it headed from Iraq to the United States.
Despite the increased international military presence off Somalia's coast -- Africa's longest -- pirates raked in an estimated 60 million dollars last year.
Alongside the European Union, the United States and other national navies deployed warships off the coastline in December 2008 to protect shipping and secure maritime routes in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.