msnbc.com news services
updated 10/27/2010 11:54:19 AM ET 2010-10-27T15:54:19

Danish sailors seized weapons from a ship off Somalia's coast, captured six suspected pirates and then destroyed the vessel, Denmark's navy said on Wednesday.

Navy spokesman Kenneth Nielsen said the suspects were released after questioning.

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"They had not committed anything criminal at sea — they were just on the wrong boat, with the wrong gear at the wrong time," Nielsen said. "They had equipment on board that could be used in piracy."

He said the vessel was a mother ship to which the pirates attach smaller speedboats they use in attacks on ships off eastern Somalia.

Personnel from the Danish warship Esbern Snare used explosives to destroy the vessel on Tuesday. The Danish ship is part of NATO's counter-piracy force.

Piracy is rife off the coast of Somalia in east Africa, disrupting shipping lanes between Europe and Asia, putting crews and vessels in danger and jacking up insurance rates for shipowners.

Story: Pirates seize 2 ships off Kenya

"There is a very strong mandate from the U.N. so that international navies can confiscate and destroy equipment related to piracy," Nielsen added.

The captured supply boat was larger than the skiffs commonly used by pirates in raids so it could operate far from the coast, he said.

"Scuppering this vessel ... prevents them from conducting piracy in the middle of the Indian Ocean where it is difficult to find suspected pirates," Nielsen said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Photos: Swedish pirate hunters

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  1. Members of the Swedish Navy participate in an exercise alongside the Swedish warship HMS Carlskrona, the flagship of the European Union's force tasked with hunting down Somali pirates. Building an international alliance to fight the pirates means navies have to try to harmonize their cultures alongside their weapons and communications systems. (Tim Freccia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A Swedish navy officer jogs aboard Swedish warship HMS Carlskrona, the flagship of the European Union's force to hunt down Somali pirates. (Tim Freccia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Rear Admiral Jan Thšrnqvist, force commander of EUNAVFOR, (European Naval Force Somalia), stands watch on the bridge of the Swedish warship HMS Carlskrona, off the coast of Somalia. (Tim Freccia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. In their off-hours, members of the Swedish Embarked Military Force (EMF) boarding team, a combination of special forces and law enforcement personnel, play video games. (Tim Freccia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Pirate-hunting has come a long way since the Knights of Malta battled the Barbary Corsairs four centuries ago. Floggings, weevils and scurvy are out. Saunas, fresh bread and massages are in, at least aboard the Swedish warship Carlskrona. (Tim Freccia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A Swedish Navy sailor takes aim with a sniper rifle as part in a live fire exercise on Swedish flagship HMS Carlskrona. (Tim Freccia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Live-fire exercises are part of the routine for the crew of the Carlskrona, the flagship of the EUNAVFOR (European Naval Force Somalia) tasked with protecting World Food Program shipments to Somalia, as well as hunting pirates off the coast of Somalia. (Tim Freccia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. The bridge crew of Swedish warship HMS Carlskrona watches for the resupply transport ship MS Alpha Kiarwara as it leaves Mogadishu empty for a trip to Mombasa, Kenya. The Carlskrona will escort the ship south. (Tim Freccia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Swedish commandos launch a fast attack boat from the HMS Carlskrona in an anti-piracy exercise off the coast of Somalia. (Tim Freccia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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