afrol News, 30 March - In a successful attack on a pirate vessel, the coastguard of Seychelles overwhelmed armed Somali pirates and managed to free Iranian and Seychellois crews and their two fishing vessels. President James Michel had ordered the attack himself.
The Seychelles High Level Committee on Piracy has confirmed that all 6 Seychellois crew members of the local fishing vessel 'Galate' are safe and in the custody of the Seychelles coastguard, following a piracy attack last night. Government was informed of the piracy attack south-east of Mahé island last night at 0200 hours, and the Seychelles coastguard vessel 'Topaz' was immediately dispatched in pursuit of the hijacked vessel.
It is believed that 9 Somali pirates hijacked the 'Galate', which had 6 Seychellois men onboard. The pirates used a dhow, which they had hijacked with 21 Iranian crew members onboard last Friday. This was then used to hijack the Seychellois vessel. The Seychellois crew was moved onto the Iranian dhow following the attack.
Together with the assistance of an EU Maritime Patrol Aircraft, the 'Topaz' located the position of the dhow, which was towing the 'Galate' and tried to engage with the vessel. The pirates responded in a threatening manner and the 'Topaz' fired several warning shots.
The dhow continued to travel towards Somalia, with 'Topaz' in pursuit.
Seychellois President James Michel, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Seychelles Armed Forces, himself gave the orders for 'Topaz' to "intercept the vessel and ensure that it did not reach Somalia," according to a government statement sent afrol News.
This afternoon the 'Topaz' disabled the dhow by firing at the engine of the boat, which resulted in a fire onboard the dhow. The pirates, the Iranian crew as well as the Seychellois men onboard jumped into the sea. The 'Topaz' thus picked up all the six Seychellois men from the sea.
The Seychelles coastguard had also rescued all the Iranian crew members, and among them one Iranian man has been injured, with a gunshot wound to the upper arm. "All the Somali pirates have now also been retrieved from the sea," according to government information.
According to the Seychelles Office of the Commanding Of
ficer, the 'Topaz' repelled yet another Somali pirate attack on its way back to Seychelles with the rescued crews. The 'Topaz' had "returned fire, one attack skiff was sunk and the mother ship exploded and caught fire. The third skiff managed to escape," a statement said. The 'Topaz' continued towards Seychelles, "having taken the decision that the priority was to return the freed hostages home safely and not to risk the lives of the civilians on board by hunting for the third skiff."
President Michel said he was thankful that all crews had been successfully rescued. "We all remember the pain and uncertainty when our compatriots on board the 'Serenity', 'Indian Ocean Explorer' and 'Alakrana' were being held hostage by pirates last year. We were determined that such incidents do not repeat themselves, and it was important that the vessel not be allowed to reach Somalia," said the Seychellois President.
The 'Topaz' had been fired upon by rocket-propelled grenades by the pirates, and had successfully evaded them. "Our men on board the Topaz have shown that they are capable in dealing with piracy in the most difficult of circumstances," President Michel praised the crew. "Our Armed Forces have risen to the challenge and we are all proud of them," he added.
The Chairman of the government committee on Piracy, Minister Joel Morgan, pointed out that Topaz's decisive action had "further justified the passing of the amendment to the law on piracy" last week. The new law "clearly lays down the way in which we can engage [pirates] in combat," he added.
In this operation Topaz had to pursue the Somali pirates outside the national waters of Seychelles, which until recently had been legally doubtful. With the new Seychellois legislation, "all our military officers were reassured in that their actions were situated within a clear legal context," said Minister Morgan.
The 'Topaz' is expected in Victoria, the Seychellois capital, this afternoon.
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