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Somali pirates attack ships

First Posted 14:50:00 04/21/2011

ROME?(UPDATE) Pirates on Thursday seized an Italian cargo ship in the Arabian Sea and attacked a South Korean vessel in the Indian Ocean, their owners said Thursday.

Pirates fired on the 225-metre (738-foot) Rosalia D'Amato during the assault but no one was injured and the captain and crew "are in good condition", said Carlo Miccio from the Naples-based company Perseveranza.

"The captain told me everything is okay, relatively speaking," he said.

"He was trying to give me more information but the pirates understood what he was doing and they cut the line," he added.

There were 21 crew members, including six Italians, on board the 74,500-ton ship, which was sailing from Brazil with a cargo of soybeans.

Miccio said there had been no demand for ransom from the pirates and that he had contacted the Italian foreign ministry.

The hijacking happened at around 0200 GMT Thursday, some 400 miles (650 kilometers) from the coast of Oman.

Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa said an Italian warship was heading for the spot and a Turkish vessel was also in the vicinity.

Meanwhile South Korean naval commandos boarded the 75,000-ton container ship Hanjin Tianjin following reports of a pirate attack and found all crew members safe, the military in Seoul said.

A spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff had no further immediate details and could not say whether any pirates were found on the vessel, which had 14 South Koreans and six Indonesians on board.

The ship had reported an attack at 2015 GMT Wednesday, according to its owners Hanjin Shipping, who said they had subsequently lost contact with the crew.

Hanjin shipping said the reported attack happened 400 kilometres (250 miles) east of the Yemeni island of Socotra.

The South Korean destroyer Choi Young, part of a multinational force patrolling pirate-infested waters off Somalia, raced to intercept the ship, which can carry 6,500 containers.

Yonhap news agency quoted foreign ministry officials as confirming the crew had taken shelter in the citadel, a special room built to protect them from attackers.

It said commandos were searching the vessel but no pirates had been found.

In another incident foreign naval forces launched an attack on Somali pirates near their base that left at least four dead and six wounded, witnesses and pirates said Thursday.

The attack targeted a suspected pirate mother ship at around 7:00 pm (1700 GMT) Wednesday off the coast between Hobyo and Eel Dhanane, further north.

"There was a heavy exchange of fire between the two sides and the boat was badly damaged by the gunshots," said Hussein Adan, a resident.

"The invading forces attacked one of our boats last night and there was heavy fighting that inflicted casualties on both sides. Three of our men died on the spot," said a pirate calling himself Abdirahman.

He said two helicopters were also involved in the operation and the fighting lasted around an hour.

Ecoterra International, an environmental and human rights organization monitoring maritime activity in the region, said helicopters intervened after the initial attack was met with gunfire.

Quoting its own witnesses, Ecoterra spoke of three dead and eight wounded but said none of them could clearly identify the attacking nation because it was dark.

There was no immediate reaction from the European Union, NATO or any of the other naval outfits patrolling the Indian Ocean.

Ecoterra International said more than 40 foreign vessels are currently being held for ransom by Somali pirates.

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