U.S. Navy Apprehends Somali Pirates for the First Time

Feb 11, 2009 3:07pm

ABC News’ Kirit Radia reports: A U.S. Navy ship working as part of a multinational team called Combined Task Force 151, apprehended a group of seven Somali pirates today, the first time the task force has picked up Somali pirates. The apprehension appears to be in response to what U.S. officials tell ABC News was an order from the Pentagon issued last Thursday to pursue pirates off the Somali coast. "At approximately 3:00 p.m. this afternoon, the Marshall Islands-flagged Motor Vessel Polaris sent a distress call to all ships in the area reporting that a small skiff containing seven suspected pirates had attempted a forcible boarding of their vessel using a ladder. Polaris crewmembers removed the ladder before pirates could come aboard," the Navy’s 5th fleet said in a statement. The U.S. Navy ship USS Vella Gulf responded to the distress call and intercepted the pirate skiff. After positively identifying the suspected pirates, they were brought on board the Vella Gulf for processing and will be transferred to the USNS Lewis and Clark where they will be temporarily detained. U.S. officials have previously told ABC News that Kenya has agreed to take in captured Somali pirates until they can be tried. There is no official word yet if the alleged pirates captured today will be sent there, but the agreement with Kenya is designed for just such cases. According to U.S. officials who spoke to ABC News on the condition of anonymity, last Thursday the Joint Chiefs of Staff last week issued a Counter Piracy Execute Order that charged the military with pursuing and apprehending pirates who threaten commercial ships in the Horn of Africa region off the coast of Somalia. Officials say the order creates an operating zone to go after pirates about 500 nautical miles out to sea and spans from the Gulf of Aden near Yemen down to the borders with Kenya and Tanzania. In other words, it is now open season for the U.S. Navy to go after Somali pirates that have haunted one of the world’s vital shipping lanes.

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