U.S. Navy vessels pursued a suspected pirate ship in the Indian Ocean off Somalia’s coast and fired warning shots to capture its crew on Saturday, U.S. Navy Forces Central Command said.
The guided missile destroyer Winston S. Churchill and other U.S. naval forces located the vessel after receiving a report of an attempted act of piracy, but it failed to respond to orders to stop.
“Churchill began aggressive maneuvering in an attempt to stop the vessel. The vessel continued on its course and speed. (Then) Churchill fired warning shots,” said a Navy statement.
“(Later) Churchill fired additional warning shots, and at that time the crew of the suspect pirate vessel established communications by radio and indicated that they would begin sending personnel to the Churchill via their small boat in tow.”
The crewmembers were seized and U.S. Navy sailors who boarded the vessel discovered small-arms weapons on board, the statement said. It did not say how many suspects were held.
Piracy has become epidemic in the unpatrolled waters off the coast of lawless Somalia, where at least 23 hijackings and attempted seizures have been reported since mid-March.
Somalia has been without a central government since 1991, when rival warlords ousted Mohamed Siad Barre.
In November, the Somali government signed a two-year deal worth $50 million with a U.S. marine security firm in a bid to end piracy.