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Iran frees vessel hijacked in Indian Ocean-report

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Iranian forces fought Somali pirates for two days to free a ship hijacked in the Indian Ocean last week and have arrested all 13 pirates, the semi-official Fars news agency quoted a navy official as saying on Tuesday.

Armed pirate gangs are making millions of dollars in ransoms and are able to stay out at sea for long periods using captured merchant vessels as mother ships. The shipping security crisis costs world trade billions of dollars each year.

"A ship carrying thousands of tonnes of goods to Iran was attacked and hijacked on March 26. Pirates wanted to take the ship to Somalia," Fars quoted Iran's navy commander Habibollah Sayyari as saying.

"Our forces reached the hijacked ship in the shortest time possible and after 48 hours of intensive fighting ... they were able to arrest all the 13 pirates and free the crew," Sayyari said, adding the vessel was not harmed.

Reuters reported last week that an Iranian bulk carrier of Brazilian sugar was hijacked in the eastern Indian Ocean with 23 crew on board, but Sayyari did not make clear what the vessel he was referring to was carrying.

Although NATO, EU and Iranian naval forces are trying to protect merchant shipping, the Indian Ocean is too big for them to effectively patrol all of it.

A NATO official said on Monday the hijack success rate for Somali pirates had dropped sharply in recent months, due in part to more merchant ships turning to armed security guards, razor wire and water pumps to protect themselves.

Sayyari said Iran's naval forces would hand in the arrested pirates to the judiciary.

Iranian media reported in January pirates in the Gulf of Aden had hijacked an Iranian ship carrying 30,000 tonnes of petrochemical products to a North African country.


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