Sunday, December 21, 2008

Chinese sailors fight off Somali pirates with beer bottles and Molotov cocktails

Zhenhua 4 was attacked at 0443GMT on Wednesday. It belongs to China Communications Construction Co., and is registered in the Caribbean island of St. Vincent.Their cargo vessel was attacked in the Gulf of Aden by pirates using speedboats and armed with heavy machine guns and rocket launchers.

Despite their best efforts the nine pirates clambered aboard after tying up alongside. The 30 Chinese crew then locked themselves in their accommodation area - which includes their sleeping rooms, mess rooms and recreation area - to prevent the bandits from entering the ship itself.

The ship's captain, Peng Weiyuan, told Chinese TV that the crew used 'water cannon, self-made incendiary bombs, beer bottles and other missiles to fight the pirates' during the five-hour stand-off. 'Thirty minutes later, the pirates gestured to us for a ceasefire then the helicopters from the joint fleet came to our help.' Peeking over to see the damage inflicted on the pirates, a Chinese sailor and his shipmates prepare more missiles to throw at the bandits.

The helicopters had been sent from a Malaysian warship after responding to the distress call sent to the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur.
After blasting the pirates with gunfire, the bandits clambered back into their speedboats and made off back to their coastal hideout.

'Two helicopters arrived at the scene first and helped deter the hijacking. They fired at the pirates, forcing them to flee the ship. Nobody was injured,' he said. 'The Chinese ship is very fortunate to have escaped. This is a rare case where pirates have successfully boarded the ship but failed to hijack it,' he added.

Somali pirates have hijacked over 40 vessels off Somalia's coastline this year. Many of the seizures took place in the Gulf of Aden that lies between Somalia and Yemen - one of the world's busiest waterways with about 20,000 ships sailing through each year.

In November, a Chinese fishing vessel was attacked while off the coast of Kenya. Spurred by widespread poverty in their homeland, which hasn't had a functioning government for nearly two decades, Somali pirates are evading an international naval flotilla to intercept huge tankers, freighters and other ships to hold for ransom. Including Wednesday's violence, Choong said there have so far been 109 attacks this year off the coast of Somalia, with 42 hijackings. Fourteen vessels are still with pirates with a total of 240 crew members as hostages.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei told the Security Council that China was considering sending warships to the Gulf of Aden, where they would join ships from the US, Russia, Denmark, Italy and other countries. 'China is seriously considering sending naval ships to the Gulf of Aden and waters off the Somali coast for escorting operations in the near future,' He said, according to a transcript of his comments posted on the Foreign Ministry's website.

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