Saturday, February 14, 2009

Russians seize Somali pirate boats

Press TV reports: A Russian warship, patrolling the busy Gulf of Aden, captured 10 pirates in three small ships off the coast of Somalia, the Russian navy says. The nuclear-powered heavy cruiser Peter the Great said on Friday that a helicopter from the ship spotted the pirates in two speed boats, with automatic rifles and grenade launchers, on Thursday, closing in on an Iranian fishing trawler. The speed boats turned around and headed back to a bigger pirate boat which the Russian warship then intercepted, the Russian navy statement said Friday.

Russian navy spokesman Igor Dygalo said that Peter the Great detained 10 pirates and confiscated weapons, narcotics and cash. “The fate of the detainees will be determined in cooperation with Russia's foreign and justice ministries”, he said. A spate of hijackings by Somali pirates has brought foreign ships rushing to protect one of the world's busiest sea lanes, linking Europe and Asia, and the number of successful attacks has shown signs of dropping in recent weeks.

A multinational task force of about 20 warships, now patrol the Gulf of Aden, an unavoidable transit point for the 50 ships a day that use the Suez Canal. Somali pirates have targeted merchant ships sailing through the busy Gulf of Aden, and have earned tens of millions of dollars in ransom last year. The international presence appears to be having an effect, though, and the International Maritime Bureau's website lists only three attacks in January but none so far in February, a far lower rate than late last year.

U.S. forces yesterday captured nine suspected pirates in the Gulf of Aden, its second seizure of pirates off the Somali coast in 24 hours.
Footage shown by the Russian TV channel "Zvezda"

Commentary: This is a rather amusing case of total overkill. The Russian ship involved in the seizure of the pirates is the heavy nuclear missile carrying battlecruiser Peter the Great, the most heavily armed ship on the planet, designed at the height of the Cold War as a killer of US carrier groups. Now, after a visit to Venezuela, the Peter the Great is chasing Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden alongside many other military ships, including American ones. Still, I can just about imagine the utter amazement of the (stoned) Somali Pirates when they were approached by his huge monster in the middle of the night! I don't want to make fun of the Russians here, doing this kind of things is good training for the Russian Navy anyway, and its very smart politics - showing a *BIG* flag. But overkill is still is.