Muscat: The French EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) Somalia Operation Atalanta flagship FS Siroco, in cooperation with Japanese assets, released an 11-member Indian crew of a dhow that was suspected to have been used as pirate mother-ship.
The flagship apprehended five suspected pirates believed to be responsible for an attack on an oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden, a day earlier. "The operation took place after an aborted pirate attack on an oil tanker in the area," the joint defence staff said.
The dhow was suspected to have served as a rear base for the pirates, who launched a failed bid to take over the Nave Atropos, an oil tanker sailing under a flag from the Marshall Islands.
A Japanese naval patrol and forces from international fleet patrolling the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean also took part in the operation about 75 kilometres (45 miles) off Oman's coast.
The dhow, named Shane Hind, had been hijacked several days earlier in the lawless waters off Somalia's coast.
The oil tanker issued a distress call to the UK Maritime Trade Operation (UKMTO) on the evening of Friday reporting to be under attack. According to reports, the attack was repelled by a private armed security team on board the oil tanker.
The skiff then headed to a dhow which lingered nearby. The EU Naval Force, in cooperation with other Counter Piracy Forces, reacted quickly to this incident. A Japanese Maritime Patrol Aircraft and a helicopter from the Japanese vessel JS Samidare initially located the dhow. The EU NAVFOR flagship FS Siroco was then able to close distance and launch their helicopter and boarding team.
Upon nearing the dhow, the helicopter crew and boarding team observed that people on board the dhow were throwing equipment over board, deepening the suspicion that the dhow was indeed the reported pirate mother-ship.
Once the Siroco's team boarded the dhow, five Somali suspect pirates surrendered and were separated from the dhow's crew and transferred to FS Siroco for further investigation. As always, the EU Naval Force seeks, if possible, a legal finish with the prosecution of the suspected pirates.
The master's initial statement supported the suspicion that his dhow had been hijacked and his crew taken hostage several days ago off the coast of Somalia. He also stated that the suspect pirates were responsible for the attack on the oil tanker the day before.
"Thanks to an exceptionally effective international cooperation, we showed once more that there will be no safe haven for piracy in the area as long as Counter Piracy Forces remain fully dedicated to their task. I also congratulate FS Siroco with this success," said the EU NAVFOR Force Commander, Rear Admiral HervéBléjean.
Meanwhile, a source at Salalah Port said they had not come across any such incident.
"The French navy ship left Salalah Port on Sunday night. We have not come across any such reports," a source said.