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Forces free seized German cargo ship off Africa

Last Updated: Monday, October 25, 2010 - 23:26

Berlin: German military and international anti-piracy forces attacked a cargo ship being held by Somali pirates off eastern Africa and freed it on Monday, but the hijackers got away, the German shipping company said.

None of the 16 crew members aboard the Beluga Fortune, which was seized by Somali pirates about 1,930 km east of Mombasa, Kenya, yesterday, were harmed in the ordeal, Verena Beckhusen, a spokeswoman for the shipping company Beluga-Reederei, told a news agency.

The German military freed the ship in cooperation with the anti-pirate mission Operation Atalanta, the shipping company said, adding that the ship was now on its way to South
Africa as planned.

Nils Stolberg, the director of the Beluga-Reederei, said in a statement that one of the main reasons the military was able to free the ship so quickly was that the crew had
trained for an emergency situation like this many times over the years.

"They sent out an emergency call, barricaded themselves in a special security room, shut off the fuel supply and the bridge and informed the military," Stolberg said. "This way the pirates could not bring the ship under their control or take the sailors at ransom."

While the Bremen-based company worked together with the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin to inform the German, Russian and Philippino family members of the crew, the German military and the anti-pirate mission evaluated the situation on the ground by deploying war ships and a surveillance plane.

The company did not release any further details about the actual attack.

The Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment. Somali pirates have long been active in the region, and they currently are holding 19 vessels with 428 hostages,
according to the EU Naval Force.

On Saturday night, pirates seized a liquefied gas tanker 165 km off the coast of Kenya in the Somali Basin, said officials in Singapore, where the ship is registered.

The MV York was travelling from Mombasa to Mahe in the Seychelles with 17 crew when pirates commandeered it, the Singapore Maritime and Port Authority said in a statement.

The authority yesterday said it was working with the ship`s owner, York Maritime Co, and government agencies to recover the ship.

The 5,076-ton MV York had one German, two Ukrainians and 14 Filipinos aboard, the EU force said in a statement.


First Published: Monday, October 25, 2010 - 23:26
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