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Pirates arrested as police storm hijacked boat

Security forces in northern Somalia stormed a hijacked ship Tuesday, rescuing the hostages and arresting seven pirates in an operation that wounded three people, officials said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Security forces in northern Somalia stormed a hijacked ship Tuesday, rescuing the hostages and arresting seven pirates in an operation that wounded three people, officials said.

The Dubai-flagged ship, which was seized Monday, originated from the United Arab Emirates, said Abdullahi Said Samatar, security affairs minister in Somalia's semiautonomous Puntland region.

"Our forces rescued a small commercial boat hijacked on Monday off the coast of Bossaso town," Samatar told The Associated Press. "Three were injured in the operation and seven others will be brought to justice."

It was not immediately clear how many people had been held on the ship.

The raid came a day after pirates in the lawless Gulf of Aden fired on a Japanese oil tanker, unleashing hundreds of gallons of fuel into the sea. And on Sunday, a Spanish tuna boat was hijacked using rocket-propelled grenades.

Well-armed bandits
The attacks highlight an alarming increase in piracy by well-armed bandits, prompting international demands for better protection of the world's shipping lanes.

The United States and France are drafting a U.N. resolution that would allow countries to chase and arrest pirates off Somalia's coast.

France's U.N. ambassador, Jean-Maurice Ripert, said the resolution would authorize foreign governments pursue pirate vessels into territorial waters, make arrests and prosecute suspects.

"We want to do it fast, but it could take one or two weeks because it has to be by consensus — it's not confrontational," he told the Associated Press.

Record oil prices
In the latest incidents, the suspected pirate ship fired on the Japanese tanker in the Gulf of Aden, ripping a one-inch hole in the ship that caused the fuel to leak, officials said. The attack helped send crude oil prices to a new record, spiking above $117 a barrel Monday before falling back slightly.

The 150,000-ton tanker was attacked 170 miles off the coast of Yemen while it was heading to Saudi Arabia. No one was injured, its Japanese operator Nippon Yusen K.K. said.

In an attack Sunday in the Gulf of Aden, pirates approached the Spanish Playa de Bakio and opened fire with rocket-propelled grenades, striking it but causing no serious damage, said an official in Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's office.

Spain sent a frigate to the site of the hijacking about 200 miles off the coast of Somalia. Twenty-six crew were aboard the 250-foot vessel when the pirates forced their way on the ship.

NATO alerted
The Spanish prime minister's office said efforts were under way to secure the sailors' release, and that aid was being sought from NATO, the African Union, France and Britain. Spain does not have an embassy in Somalia, which has not had an effective government since 1991.

The hijackers are demanding money but have not specified how much, Rosa Maria Alvarez, the daughter of the ship's skipper, Amadeo Alvarez Gomez, told Spanish National Radio. The government declined to comment on her remarks.

Last week, French judges filed preliminary charges against six Somali pirates accused of holding 30 hostages aboard a French luxury yacht for a week in the Gulf of Aden.

A six were captured after they were chased by a French military helicopter after the April 11 release of the yacht's crew. The ship's owners reportedly paid a ransom.

According to a report from the International Maritime Bureau, piracy is on the rise, with seafarers suffering 49 attacks between January and March — up 20 percent from the period last year.