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NATO warships repel Somali pirates

NATO warships have foiled an overnight attempt by Somali pirates to hijack a Norwegian-flagged tanker off the east African coast.

People on a boat waving their hands

In a separate incident, 20 fishermen were rescued by Dutch commandos

Seven pirates in a skiff attempted to attack the 80,000-ton MV Front Ardenne late on Saturday, April 18, but fled after a British Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel, the Wave Knight, arrived on the scene along with air support.

Other vessels from the western military alliance joined the seven-hour chase. The would-be hijackers were finally hunted down by the Canadian frigate Winnipeg, a NATO maritime spokesman said.

The pirates, who initially had weapons and what appeared to be climbing gear, threw all their gear overboard when the Winnipeg finally caught up and stopped them. Nobody was injured in the incident.

The pirates were detained and questioned, but subsequently released. Charging them with any offense would have fallen out of Canada's jurisdiction.

Earlier on Saturday, Dutch commandos freed 20 Yemeni hostages and also briefly detained seven pirates who had forced the Yemenis to sail a "mother ship" attacking vessels in the Gulf of Aden.

Belgian ship hijacked

In a separate incident, gunmen from Somalia seized a Belgian ship and its 10 crew, including seven Europeans, further south in the Indian Ocean. The dredging vessel, the Pompei, sent out two distress signals early on Saturday when it was about 600 kilometers (370 miles) from the Somali coast. A pirate source said the vessel would be taken to the coast.

In Brussels, government officials held an emergency meeting to discuss the situation and possible intervention.

In recent months, Somali sea gangs have hijacked dozens of ships and gleaned tens of millions of dollars (euros) in ransoms despite patrols by foreign navies off the Horn of Africa. The attacks have disrupted UN aid supplies, driven up insurance costs and forced some shipping companies to route cargo round South Africa, rather than risk approaching Somalia.

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