27 August 2009

Somali pirates open fire on US navy helicopter

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MANAMA — Somali pirates aboard a captured vessel have opened fire on a US navy helicopter on the high seas as it carried out a surveillance mission over the boat, the navy said on Thursday.
There were no reported casualties or damage from the incident which occurred on Wednesday morning off the pirate-infested coast of Somalia, said a statement from the Bahrain-based US Naval Forces Central Command.
"Somali pirates aboard the motor vessel (M/V) Win Far fired what appeared to be a large calibre weapon at a US navy SH-60B helicopter," the statement said.
"The helicopter was conducting a routine surveillance flight of M/V Win Far, currently held at anchorage by Somali pirates south of Garacad, Somalia, when the incident occurred," it added.
The shooting came as the helicopter returned to the USS Chancellorsville, where a video recording of the incident was noted, it said, adding that during the flight the crew was unaware of the attack.
The navy identified the Win Far as a Taiwanese-flagged vessel which was seized by pirates earlier this year.
"Over the past 135 days it has been used as a 'mother ship' to conduct other known pirate attacks, most notably the US-flagged Maersk-Alabama in April," it said.
According to the US navy, the pirates are holding hostage more than 30 crew members of the Win Far.
So far this year, there have been 114 attempted attacks on merchant vessels in the region, 29 of them successful, according to the US navy.
The world's naval powers have deployed dozens of warships to the lawless waters off Somalia over the past year to curb attacks by pirates threatening one of the world's busiest maritime trade routes.

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