Action of 23 March 2010
|Action of 23 March 2010|
|Part of Piracy in Somalia Operation Ocean Shield, Operation Enduring Freedom - Horn of Africa|
|Casualties and losses|
|1 freighter damaged||
1 whaler sunk
1 skiff damaged
The Action of 23 March 2010 was an attack by Somali pirates on a Panamanian-flagged merchant vessel and the subsequent capture of the pirates by the Spanish Navy. The encounter happened off the coast of Somalia and ended with the death of one pirate and the capture of six others.
The MV Almezaan had already been attacked and captured twice by Somali pirates over the past few years. In both incidents, ransoms were paid and the freighter was released. After the second attack, the operators of the ship hired a security team to protect the vessel from the pirates. While sailing off Somalia towards Mogadishu in the Indian Ocean on Tuesday, 25 March 2010, the Panama flagged vessel was engaged by pirates on a large whaler and two small skiffs. The pirates advanced towards the ship, firing AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades. As the pirates closed in on their target, the Almezaan's security detachment responded. Little is known but the security force of a few men armed with small arms fired on the attacking skiffs which temporarily forced them back. One pirate was killed and one skiff sustained several small caliber bullet holes. The pirates then attacked again but the merchant vessel was apparently able to slip away. After the attack on the freighter, the pirates began to flee. The successful defense of the freighter and the death of a pirate by the security team was the first known engagement of its type to have occurred according to news reports. Almezaan's master reported the incident over the radio to the allied naval presence in the region and the Spanish frigate Navarra proceeded to the area after a short cruise.
Accounts differ in terms of what happened next, what is known is that the Spaniards sighted the large mother ship and the two skiffs, the Spanish commander then ordered their capture by launching a helicopter. The helicopter approached the vessels and fired a few warning shots. The pirates refused to surrender so a boarding party was dispatched to the pirate skiffs but by the time the Spanish boarding party had reached the pirates, they had already thrown their weapons into the sea and surrendered. The skiffs were captured and contained seven pirates, one of whom was the man the security team had killed. The Spanish also observed several of the gunshots in the side of the skiff. The sailors returned to their frigate and the mother ship was sunk by naval gunfire. The six living pirates were detained but later released by the Spanish Navy and sent back to Somalia in the remaining skiffs. The pirates were freed due to the crew of Almezaan who refused to testify against their attackers, possibly fearing reprisal.
- La 'Navarra' intercepta dos esquifes y un barco nodriza Spanish MoD release, 23 March 2010 (Spanish)
- "EU force frees Somali 'pirates'". BBC News. 25 March 2010
- "'Pirate' dies as ship's guards repel attack off Somalia". BBC News Online. 24 March 2010 Retrieved 24 March 2010.