10 May 2010

Russian tanker freed in 22-minute gunfight

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MOSCOW (The Moscow Times) -- Russian marines on Thursday freed a Russian oil tanker hijacked by Somali pirates a day earlier in the Arabian Sea in a 22-minute gunfight that saw one pirate killed and 10 others arrested.
The 23 Russian sailors on the Moscow University tanker — who cut power to the vessel and spent the 20-hour ordeal holed up in the engine room — emerged unharmed, a Navy spokeswoman told The Moscow Times.

Russian officials have not decided whether to bring the detained pirates to Moscow or hand them over for trial to an African court.

The state-owned tanker was attacked about 350 nautical miles from Socotra, Yemen, in what was the first hijacking of a Russian-owned ship with a Russian crew in the pirate-infested waters off the coast of lawless Somalia.

The captain turned off the power on the whole ship from the engine room, effectively marooning the vessel, the unidentified naval official said.

The sailors had stocked the engine room with food and water and were ready to withstand a siege, Itar-Tass reported.

A 1982 UN convention signed by Moscow gives the country that captures pirates the right to prosecute them, the head of the Moscow-based Association of International Naval Law, Anatoly Kolodkin, told Interfax.

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