M/V Xianghuamen. (c) V. Tonic via MarineTraffic.com

Iran’s Navy has once again flexed its muscles in the fight against piracy, reportedly freeing a Chinese cargo ship and its 28 crew hijacked last week in the Gulf of Oman.

As gCaptain reported on Friday, the cargo ship, identified as the Panamanian-flagged and Chinese-owned Xianghuamen, was successfully hijacked by Somali pirates on Friday morning in the Sea of Oman near Iran’s southern port of Chabahar with Iranian warships in hot pursuit.

Now media reports are indicating that pirates actually surrendered as result of pressure from the Iranian navy, and possibly in part due to a mechanical malfunction.

China’s Xinhua news has the story:

Nine Somali pirates climbed onto the cargo ship by their own ladders, fired shots on the ship and seized the Chinese crew members on board.

Two Iranian naval warships participating in the rescue operation followed the vessel and ordered the pirates to surrender. The pirates later threw their weapons into the sea and surrendered to the Iranian navy.

The hijacked cargo ship’s engine was damaged and is in repair. Later the ship will head for the Iranian port of Gask, 70 miles (about 112 km) away from where the hijacking occurred and 200 miles (about 322 km) away from the vessel’s destination.

The incident is the second such case involving the release of a Somali pirated vessel at the hands of the Iranian Navy since the end of March.

Previously, the Iranian-owned bulk carrier M/V Eglantine was freed after just one week in captivity when a team of Iranian commandos stormed the vessel during a 36 hour operation that resulted in the arrest of up to 12 Somali pirates.  Following the operation, Iran’s Naval Commander, Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, told Iran’s PressTV that Iran’s navy has an astounding 11,000 men and 19 vessels in the Indian Ocean conducting counter pirate operations.

Here’s the video of Sayyari’s statements regarding their counter-piracy operations following the release of the M/V Eglantine:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4uC0irKx8w[/youtube]

UPDATE: China’s Xinhua news agency has this update about the operation that freed the Xianghuamen.

Later the pirates ordered the crew members to sail the ship for the sea off Somalia when one Iranian naval warship requested several times the cargo ship to stop.

The pirates ignored the requests, keeping sailing the vessel and asking Meng to reply to the Iranian warship that the crew members of Xianghuamen were hijacked and safe.

“If the Iranian warship continues to order the freighter to stop, the safety of the crew members will be under threat,” Meng said, citing the pirates.

Pointing guns at the crewmen and urging the Iranian warship to stay 20 miles away from Xianghuamen by threatening otherwise they would punish the seized crew members, the pirates required Meng to tell the Iranian warship that there were 22 pirates instead of nine actually.

The Iranian warship ignored the warning and continued to follow the cargo ship.

After capturing the communication signals between Xianghuamen and the Iranian warship, another cargo ship nearby asked Meng to report in Chinese the exact number of pirates on board. The English-speaking pirates could not understand Chinese.

“In this way we finally sent related information that helped the later rescue operations successfully to the outside world,” said Li Shengming, the chief engineer.

At around 5:00 pm (1230 GMT) the Iranian warship exchanged fire with the pirates. Five crew members shut down the engine system of the vessel and jumped into the sea.

The angry pirates demanded the remaining crew members to restart the engine system but they failed, because only three of the five crew members who jumped into the sea knew how to restore the engine system.

After being beaten by the pirates for inability to restart the engine system, captain He also jumped into the sea.

As the vessel could not sail forward, the nine Somali pirates got nervous under Iranian warship’s firing. They finally threw their weapons into the sea and surrendered to the Iranian navy.

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