Devon

HMS Cornwall crew free captive fishermen

A crew from Devonport-based HMS Cornwall seized 17 pirates and freed five hostages after storming a fishing boat in the Indian Ocean.

About six sailors and Royal Marines launched the raid after being alerted by a South Korean merchant ship.

The fishing boat, or dhow, was being used as a "mother ship" for smaller skiffs to attack vessels.

The suspects were taken to Somalia and released in line with the Navy's rules of engagement with pirates.

A number of weapons including rocket-propelled grenades were also seized.

HMS Cornwall launched the operation after a call on 10 February from the South Korean merchant vessel Yong Sin that had spotted the dhow crew acting suspiciously.

Image caption Rocket-propelled grenades were among weapons seized on the dhow

It emerged five fishermen had been held hostage on the fishing boat for three months.

The fishermen have been allowed to return to the Yemen and the pirates were taken to Somalia.

A Navy spokesman said: "If it is considered that there is sufficient evidence on which to charge suspected pirates they will be detained and subsequently transferred to a regional state for prosecution.

"The UK has an arrangement with the Seychelles government that allows the transfer of suspected pirates for prosecution.

"Conversely, if after thorough investigation there is insufficient evidence on which to charge suspected pirates, they will be released.

"Any piracy equipment, such as ladders and weapons, which are found will be seized and, if it is not practicable to keep it, destroyed."

HMS Cornwall's commanding officer, Cdr David Wilkinson, said: "My highly trained team has conducted a very slick boarding operation which has ensured that this pirate vessel is no longer able to operate.

"This demonstrates the reassurance and security offered by the presence in these waters of HMS Cornwall and other warships from Combined Maritime Forces (CMF)."

The CMF is a 25-nation coalition dedicated to maritime security throughout the Middle East including counter-piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the east coast of Somalia.

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