South Korean special forces have retaken the Korean-owned, Maltese-flag product tanker MV SAMHO JEWELRY, which had been hijacked January 15 when 350 nautical miles southeast of the port of Muscat, Oman.
Eight pirates were killed and five were taken prisoner in the operation which was authorized by Korea's President Lee Myung-bak. All 21 members of the crew, including eight Korean citizens, were freed. The ship's Korean captain received a gunshot wound that is reported to be non life threatening. Three South Korean soldiers suffered minor injuries and were sent to a hospital in Oman.
This morning, President Lee Myung-bak issued the following statement:
I am proud to report that our soldiers of the Cheonghae Unit have succeeded.
Just a short while ago, our military rescued all of the 21 member crew of the Korean freighter Samho Jewelry, including eight Republic of Korean citizens, who were taken hostage by Somali pirates.
At 5:12 yesterday afternoon, I ordered the Minister of Defense to conduct the rescue operation. Even under difficult conditions, our troops were able to carry out this operation.
Along with the Korean people, I would like to send them our appreciation and support.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our allies who cooperated in this operation.
The most important thing for us is the safety and the lives of the Korean people. We will never condone any action that threatens the safety or the lives of our citizens.
The Cheonghae Unit is a Republic of Korea Navy anti-piracy unit operating as part of Combined Task Force 151
The South Korean destroyer Choi Young has been pursuing the 11,500-ton Samho Jewelry since early this week.
According to Korean media reports, today's operation started at 4:58 a.m. (local time) with Navy SEALs aboard three boats closing in on the Samho Jewelry. The operation was launched when intelligence was received that a "mother ship" was headed from Somalia with pirate reinforcements.
The operation, which took place 1,300 kilometers off northeast Somalia, lasted about five hours.