Malaysian Warship Scares off Somali Pirates

KUALA LUMPUR ~ A Malaysian warship helped Indian seamen fight off heavily armed Somali pirates attempting to board an oil tanker on Thursday, a maritime watchdog said.

It was the second time the Malaysian navy has fought off pirates in the Gulf of Aden, after it successfully repelled a group who boarded a Chinese commercial vessel on December 18.

The Indian-flagged ship was heading west towards the Suez Canal when it was attacked by pirates in two skiffs at 03:37 GMT on Thursday, said Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Board’s piracy reporting centre.

“The master of the ship said that seven pirates in one of the skiffs were dressed in military-type uniform,” he said.

“The small boats used machine guns to repeatedly fire at the vessel’s bridge and accommodation,” he added.

Choong said Malaysian navy vessel KD Inderasakti, which was leading a convoy of ships about 15 nautical miles away, responded to the tanker’s distress call by launching a helicopter and steaming towards the vessel under attack.

“The pirates on noticing the helicopter stopped firing at the tanker and escaped,” he said.

Choong said the Indian tanker then followed the Malaysian warship’s convoy.

He said none of the crew were injured but the ship’s radar system had been damaged in the hail of bullets.

“We urge vessels in the area to be on visual and radar alert for pirates as they are still able to find loopholes to attack ships as the international coalition patrolling the pirate-infested waters cannot be everywhere at the same time,” he said.

Pirates have carried out more than 112 attacks in the key shipping lanes of the Gulf of Aden, located between the south of Yemen and the north of Somalia, and the Indian Ocean east of Somalia since the start of 2008.

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