April 18, 2009
Dutch Marines free hostages, release pirates
Somali pirate activity continues at a high level.
At around 5.30 AM local time Saturday morning, the Belgian-flag stone-dumping vessel Pompei, was seized after sending two silent alarms that were forwarded to the Belgian Coast Guard.
In a separate incident, NATO forces foiled an attempted attack on the Marshall Islands flag chemical/products tanker Handytankers Magic, which is managed by Roxana Shipping SA of Athens. The British fast fleet tanker RFA Wave Knight responded to a distress call from the tanker and the Dutch frigate De Zeven Provincieën subsequently detained a dhow to which the pirates had fled in their attack skiff.
Two Dutch Marine boarding teams in RHIB's found about 25 people on board the dhow--along with seven AK-47's and a grenade launcher. Nine of those on board were determined to be pirates. The others were Yemeni fishermen whose dhow had been hijacked last Thursday and taken over by the suspected pirates to use as a mother ship.
Dutch forces sent the dhow on its way back to Yemen and destroyed the captured weapons and other materials that could be used for piracy.
The pirate suspects were put in the skiff and released.
The reason given for their release by a NATO spokesman was: "NATO does not have a detain policy, a national policy will apply and under these circumstances, the Dutch law cannot prosecute."
Meantime, the Belgianstone dumper was seen headed for the Soimali coast with a small boat alongside. It is owned by the Belgian dredging firms Jan De Nul and DEME. Two Belgians are reported to be on board. The rest of the crew is made up of four Croatians, three Filipinos and one Dutch national.
Jan De Nul, which manages the ship, was able to contact it briefly on Saturday morning and speak to one of the crew members. However, the call ended abruptly when a Jan De Nul official asked to speak to the captain.
At 5.00 PM, Belgian time, a spokesman from the Belgian Government's Crisis Center told journalists that there had been no contact with the hijackers.