Eleven suspected pirates accused of firing on two locally-based…
Updated: Friday, 02 Apr 2010, 6:58 AM EDT
Published : Thursday, 01 Apr 2010, 9:15 AM EDT
NAIROBI, Kenya - U.S. naval forces say they've captured five pirates after exchanging fire with them, sinking their skiff and confiscating a mother ship.
The USS Nicholas came under fire early Thursday from pirates in an area west of the Seychelles. Officials believe the pirates may have been planning a take-over/ransom-seeking attack, but were not aware they were attacking a warship.
The U.S. Africa Command said the five pirates seized would remain in U.S. custody on board the frigate for time time being. The Nicholas is home-ported at Naval Station Norfolk. It left on its scheduled deployment in support of Africa Command (AFRICOM) on Dec. 3, 2009.
According to the Navy, the Nicholas crew reported taking fire at 12:27 a.m. local time from the suspected pirate skiff. The crew returned fire and pursued the vessel until the disabled skiff stopped.
At about 2:00 a.m., personnel from the Nicholas boarded the disabled skiff and detained three people. The Navy says the boarding team found ammunition and multiple cans of fuel on board.
After taking the suspected pirates on board, the Nicholas crew sank the disabled skiff at about 3:00 a.m.
Two more suspected pirates were captured on the confiscated mother ship.
Last May, pirates chased the Navy supply ship USNS Lewis and Clark and fired small arms fire at it. French and Dutch naval ships also have been attacked by pirates, said Roger Middleton, a piracy expert at the British think tank Chatham House.
"If you think of the kind of young men who are doing this, they go out into the middle of the ocean in a tiny boat. They might not always make rational decisions, and they often attack things that are bigger than they should (attack)," said Middleton.
"It's also quite possible that they don't have a full understanding of the targets they are attacking. Perhaps they just see a big ship they think is a worth a lot of money," he said.
Thursday's attack came just shy of a year since pirates attacked the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama and took American Richard Phillips hostage. Phillips was rescued five days later when Navy SEAL snipers onboard the Norfolk-based USS Bainbridge shot three pirates in a lifeboat.
International naval forces have stepped up their enforcement of the waters off East Africa in an effort to thwart a growing pirate trade.
Experts say piracy will continue to be a problem until an effective government is established on Somalia's lawless shores. The country has not had a functioning government for 19 years.
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