Navy frees pirates' hostages

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The Independent Online

British sailors have freed five hostages who were held captive by Somali pirates for three months.

A naval boarding party from HMS Cornwall discovered the Yemeni hostages after searching the pirates' sailing boat in the Indian Ocean, the Ministry of Defence said.

The boarding crew also found and destroyed weapons including rocket propelled grenades, and three skiffs used to launch attacks.

HMS Cornwall's commanding officer, Commander David Wilkinson, said: "Our presence in the area has had a hugely significant effect on the lives of five Yemeni fishermen, who have been freed from over three months of pirate captivity and can now return to their families.

"In addition we have restored a merchant vessel to legitimate use on the high seas and my highly trained team has conducted a very slick boarding operation which has ensured that this pirate vessel is no longer able to operate.

"This demonstrates the reassurance and security offered by the presence in these waters of HMS Cornwall and other warships from Combined Maritime Forces."

HMS Cornwall was alerted by a South Korean merchant vessel which spotted the Somali dhow acting suspiciously.

The British frigate arrived at the scene with a boarding team supported overhead by a Lynx helicopter.

HMS Cornwall is the Command Platform for Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, the counter-piracy mission of multi-national naval partnership Combined Maritime Force (CMF).

The rescue came as Norwegian shipping magnate Jacob Stolt-Nielsen faced criticism for suggesting pirates captured off the Horn of Africa should be sunk with their skiffs or executed on the spot.

The 79-year-old founder of the Stolt-Nielsen shipping group wrote in Norwegian financial newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv: "When (piracy) implies a great risk of being caught and hanged, and the cost of losing ships and weapons becomes too big, it will decrease and eventually disappear.

"Pirates captured in international waters have always been punished by death, often on the spot.

"Not arrest them and say, 'naughty, naughty, shame on you,' and release them again, but sink their boats with all hands.

"The pirates won't be frightened by being placed before a civilian court."

Piracy in the busy shipping lanes off Somalia has flourished since its government collapsed in 1991.

The piracy industry has evolved into a multimillion dollar business with almost daily attacks.