The European Union Naval Force said it would not emulate successful raids by Malaysian and South Korean counterparts that rescued two ships and their crew from Somali pirates because they could endanger hostages.
Malaysia’s navy is holding seven Somali pirates seized in the second dramatic commando raid within hours on ships raided near the African coast, authorities said.
The operations gave both Malaysia and South Korea dramatic successes in the battle against pirates who have long tormented shipping in the waters off the Horn of Africa.
The Royal Malaysian Navy said its commandos wounded three pirates in a gun battle and rescued the 23 crew members on the Malaysian-flagged chemical tanker MT Bunga Laurel early on Friday, shortly after the pirates stormed the vessel in the Gulf of Aden with assault rifles and pistols.
The operation came on the same day as another stunning raid by South Korean commandos who freed a hijacked freighter sailing towards Oman under the escort of a South Korean destroyer. But EU Naval Force spokesman Wing Cmdr Paddy O’Kennedy said despite these successes the force would not change its approach towards tackling piracy.
“Our priority is the safety of the hostages. The pirates are using the hostages as human shields and if we get too close to the pirates they threaten to kill the hostages… I am sure they will carry out the threats if we got too close,” he said.
The force now has four ships patrolling the pirate-infested waters of the Indian Ocean. The EU’s force for Somalia, also called Operation Atalanta, escorts merchant vessels carrying humanitarian aid.
The force said it also “protects vulnerable ships in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean” in an effort to deter and disrupt piracy. Wing Cmdr O’Kennedy said the force disrupted 64 attempted hijackings by Somali pirate groups last year. The EU force has also used a strategy of destroying pirates ships, which normally includes several skiffs and a mother vessel.
Somali pirates in the end will not be brutal with hostages because, he says, they know they will eventually get money. Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991, during which time piracy has flourished off its coast, sometimes yielding millions in ransoms.