BBC News – South Korea rescues Samho Jewelry crew from pirates

South Korea rescues Samho Jewelry crew from pirates

South Korean navy commandos have stormed a cargo ship which had been seized by pirates in the Arabian Sea.

All 21 crew members of the South Korean-owned Samho Jewelry were rescued, said Lt Gen Lee Sung-ho of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The navy said eight of the pirates had been killed and five captured.

South Korea is part of a multinational anti-piracy patrol in the area – it had dispatched a warship after the vessel was seized on Saturday.

The unprecedented rescue mission took place about 1,300km (800 miles) off the coast of Somalia and was described by Lt Gen Lee as “a perfect military operation”.

The 11,500-tonne Samho Jewelry had been carrying chemicals from the United Arab Emirates towards Sri Lanka when it was hijacked in the waters between Oman and India.

Earlier in the week, President Lee Myung-Bak told the navy to take “all possible measures” to free the eight South Koreans, two Indonesians and 11 Burmese on board.

The Choi Young destroyer had been pursuing the ship for nearly a week, and the navy said the pirates appeared to have been weakened by the chase.

Lt Gen Lee said there were also concerns that they were expecting a mother ship to arrive soon to give them support.

“Since we thought we could be in an extremely difficult situation if the pirates joined forces, we chose today to carry out the operation,” he said.

Lt Gen Lee said the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff had taken advice from the Fifth Fleet – the US Navy division based in Bahrain – before the mission, and that the raid was carried out with support from a US destroyer.

‘Never negotiate’

The Choi Young moved in when some of the pirates left the Samho Jewelry, apparently to attack a Mongolian ship nearby.

Commandos boarded the ship while a smaller boat and a helicopter were sent to rescue to Mongolian vessel.

“Three of our soldiers suffered light scratches on their bodies as they were fired upon by pirates on Tuesday,” said Col Lee Bung-Woo, a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff……

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