, MOGADISHU, Oct 26 – The European Union\’s anti-piracy mission on Monday denied that one of its helicopters was involved in a clash with Somali pirates in which four people were killed.
Residents in the village of Labad on Somalia\’s northern coast said pirates had shot at a military helicopter on Sunday night, which returned fire killing at least four people.
"That helicopter does not belong to EU NAVFOR," Lieutenant Colonel Per Klingvall, spokesman for the EU naval force, told AFP.
"We have not heard of any incident like this from other task forces," he said, referring to US and NATO operations in the waters around the lawless Horn of Africa country.
Abdi Yare, a pirate leader, said the helicopter fired one missile in response to the shooting, killing four people including fishermen.
The incident was confirmed to AFP by elders in Labad.
"The pirates were preparing to go for an attack when the chopper spotted them," said Abdulaziz Moalim Ahmed.
Another elder said the helicopter fired a missile after pirates shot at it.
A flotilla of foreign navies has been patrolling off the Somali coast since 2008 to safeguard the crucial Gulf of Aden shipping lane that had nearly been overrun by rampaging pirates from the war-wracked country.
The warships have managed to thwart several hijackings and arrested dozens of pirates, but the attacks have not abated.
At least 27 foreign vessels and 485 seamen remain in the hands of the pirates, according to Ecoterra, an NGO monitoring maritime activies in the region.
Meanwhile, Somali pirates abandoned a hijacking attempt on a German cargo vessel on Monday after pressure from an international patrol vessel, the shipping company said.