German warship halts Somali pirates attack
The rise in attacks on shipping prompted NATO ships to begin anti-piracy operations off the Somali coast in October
Quick action by a German warship halted an attack on an Egyptian bulk carrier in the Gulf of Aden on Thursday by Somali pirates trying to hijack it, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said.
"Despite the increased naval presence, the attacks are still mounting," IMB official Noel Choong told Reuters. "They (the warships) can't be everywhere, but quick action today by the German warship helped and is very encouraging," the Kuala Lumpur-based IMB said.
The rise in attacks on shipping prompted NATO ships to begin anti-piracy operations off the Somali coast in October, joined by other nations such as China and India.
The Egyptian bulk carrier, with 31 crew, was sailing to Asia when Somali pirates surrounded it, firing automatic weapens and wounding one crew member, said Choong, who did not have the name or port of origin of the ship.
"The German warship was the first to the scene, responding to the Egyptian ship's distress signals, and managed to chase away the Somali pirates with its helicopter," he said.
The wounded crew member was airlifted from the ship and was receiving medical attention.
So far this year 110 ships are reported to have been attacked and 42 hijacked, Choong said. Fourteen of the hijacked vessels are still being held by the pirates and more than 240 crew members are still being held hostage.
Nearly 20,000 ships pass through the Gulf of Aden each year on their way to and from the Suez Canal.
The seizures have prompted some major shipping firms to send their vessels around southern Africa instead of through the Suez Canal, raising the cost of commodities and manufactureder goods.
The pirates, operating mainly from northern Somalia, where clashes between Islamists and U.S.-backed warlords have prevented the government from establishing order.
Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Mohamud Guled resigned on Wednesday after only a week in office, making the country even more unstable.
Reuters Last Mod: 25 Aralık 2008, 15:00