Russian commandos from the large anti-submarine ship Marshal Shaposhnikov have released a Russian tanker hijacked by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, a high-ranking official from the maritime coalition forces said on Thursday.
According to the official, Navy forces made the decision to release the Moscow University tanker as they were aware the sailors had taken cover in an area inaccessible to the pirates on board the ship.
“Around 3.00 a.m. Moscow time [23:00 GMT], the large anti-submarine ship sailed out toward the tanker’s location to assess the situation using technical equipment. Then the decision on conducting a special operation was made. During the operation, none of the Russians were injured,” the official said adding the pirates had been detained.
The official said the crew from the Marshal Shaposhnikov was currently on board the tanker.
The incident with Moscow University tanker has become the most notorious case since the Arctic Sea cargo vessel was hijacked on the way from Finland last summer. The Russian Black Fleet sailors then freed Arctic Sea.
The Moscow University tanker with 23 Russian crewmembers and 86,000 tons of oil was hijacked by Somali pirates on Wednesday around 8.00 a.m. Moscow time [04:00 GMT], when it was on its way from the Red Sea to China. The pirates attacked the Russian vessel 350 miles east of the Gulf of Aden.
The captain of the tanker was able to get in touch with the Russian warship by phone and called for help.
A Russian Pacific Fleet task force comprising the Marshal Shaposhnikov, the MB-37 salvage tug and the Pechenga tanker arrived in the Gulf of Aden on March 29 to join the anti-piracy mission in the pirate-infested region.
The Marshal Shaposhnikov has two helicopters and an infantry unit on board.
The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office has opened a criminal case on charges of piracy over the seizure of the Russian vessel.
Somali pirates carried out a record number of attacks and hijackings in 2009. According to the Piracy Reporting Center of the International Maritime Bureau, a total of 217 vessels were attacked last year, resulting in 47 hijackings.
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