European troops arrest 7 pirates

March 30, 2009 12:00 am

, ATHENS, Mar 30 – Greek and Spanish forces from a European anti-pirate unit off Somalia have arrested seven Somali marauders who tried to capture a German oil tanker, the Greek merchant navy ministry said Monday.

The pirates tried to hijack the FGS Spessart off southern Yemen were apprehended by Greek troops on a frigate. A Spanish naval helicopter also took part in the operation, it said.

The seven men were transferred to a German frigate on Monday.

Ransom-hunting Somali pirates attacked more than 130 merchant ships in the region last year, an increase of more than 200 percent on 2007, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

The number and success rate of pirate attacks has declined slightly since the start of the year, attributed to unfavourable sea conditions and an increased foreign naval presence in the Gulf of Aden.

Greece, which is home to the biggest commercial fleet in the world, recently called on the European Union "to play a more active role" in cracking down on piracy.

The European Union’s Atalanta flotilla was launched in December, its first-ever naval operation, with six warships and three surveillance planes to patrol pirate-infested seas in the Horn of Africa.

The EU vessels are facing the daunting task of covering an area of around one million square kilometres (400,000 square miles).

Norway, Japan, the United States, China, Russia and other countries also have naval forces also operating in the area.


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