CBSN

Navy Seizes Suspected Pirate Ship

In this handout photo by the US Navy, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill, top right, follows a suspected pirate vessel in the Indian Ocean on Saturday Jan. 21. 2006. U.S. sailors boarded the suspected pirate ship in the Indian Ocean and detained 26 men for questioning, the Navy said Sunday.
AP Photo/US Navy
U.S. sailors boarded a suspected pirate ship in the Indian Ocean and detained 26 men for questioning, the Navy said Sunday.

The 16 Indians and 10 Somali men were aboard a traditional dhow that was chased and seized Saturday by the U.S. guided missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill, said Lt. Leslie Hull-Ryde of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain.

The dhow stopped 54 miles off the coast of Somalia after the Churchill fired warning shots, the Navy said. U.S. sailors boarded the ship and seized a cache of small arms.

Sailors aboard the dhow told Navy investigators that pirates hijacked their vessel six days ago near Mogadishu and used it to stage attacks on merchant ships.

The crew and passengers were being questioned aboard the Churchill Sunday to determine which were pirates and which were legitimate crew members, Hull-Ryde said.

The Churchill is part of a multinational task force patrolling the western Indian Ocean and Horn of Africa region to thwart terrorist activity and other lawlessness during the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

The Navy said it captured the dhow in response to a report from the International Maritime Bureau in Kuala Lumpur on Friday that said pirates had fired on a Bahamian-flagged bulk carrier off the central eastern coast of Somalia.

Piracy is rampant off the coast of Somalia, which is torn by renewed clashes between militias fighting over control of the troubled African country. Many shipping companies resort to paying ransoms, saying they have few alternatives.

Somali militiamen last month relinquished a merchant ship hijacked in October.

In November, Somali pirates freed a Ukrainian ore carrier and its 22 member crew after holding it for 40 days. It was unclear whether a $700,000 ransom demanded by the pirates had been paid.

One of the boldest recent attacks was on Nov. 5, when two boats full of pirates approached a cruise ship carrying Western tourists about 100 miles off Somalia and fired rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles.

The crew used a weapon that directs earsplitting noise at attackers, then sped away.

Somalia has had no effective government since 1991, when warlords ousted a dictatorship and then turned on each other, carving the nation of 8.2 million into a patchwork of fiefdoms.