EU Naval Force French frigate FS Surcouf apprehends suspect pirates. Photo: EUNAVFOR

EU Naval Force French frigate FS Surcouf apprehends suspected pirates. Photo: EUNAVFOR

Twelve suspected pirates operating off the coast of Somalia were picked up by a naval warship after reportedly launching an attack on a merchant vessel.

The EU Naval Force, aka EUNAVFOR, says that on January 5th the USS Halyburton picked up a distress call from a merchant vessel sailing approximately 260 miles off the Somali coast.  The vessel reported that they were under attack by six men in a fast moving skiff, armed with rocket propelled grenades.

Upon hearing the call, the USS Halyburton- operating nearby as part of NATO’s counter piracy operation, Ocean Shield- launched a helicopter that was able to quickly located the skiff.  It appeared to be with another larger vessel with several more men on board.

Meanwhile, EUNAVFOR’s French Frigate Surcouf, operating as part of the EU’s counter piracy mission Operation Atalanta, made its way to the area as a German EUNAVFOR Patrol Aircraft kept watch overhead. Upon arrival, and in full cooperation with the NATO warship, the boarding team from the French warship boarded the two suspect vessels and apprehended twelve men in total.

All twelve men are currently being held on board Surcouf for evidence collection in order to fully assess the possibility of legal prosecution.

In a recent press conference held on board Surcouf during her port visit to Port Victoria, Seychelles, the Commanding Officer, Commander Hugues Lainé, reiterated the importance of not lowering the guard against piracy as the threat of Somali piracy remains high, despite the drop in pirate attacks during the past year. This attack is just the latest example of that.

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