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Nato warships free vessels held by pirates

This handout photo released on January 8 by the Danish Navy allegedly shows hostages and pirates aboard a suspect pirate ship, off the coast of the Horn of Africa.(AFP)


Nato warships have freed Iranian and Indian vessels held by Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa, rescuing five Iranian, nine Pakistani and 20 Indian crew members, Nato said Monday.

The Nato operation came days after the US navy saved 13 Iranian fishermen who were held hostage by pirates for weeks in the Arabian Sea.

On Saturday, a Danish warship freed five Iranians and nine Pakistanis off the Somali coast after intercepting an Iranian dhow used by pirates as a mothership from which to launch attacks, the alliance said in a statement.

The pirates tried to escape to the Somali coast but stopped when Danish navy snipers fired warning shots. A search team, backed by a helicopter, then found the 14 crew members and 25 suspected pirates.

The crew members were not injured and "were given access to phone calls so they could give their relatives the good news of their release," a Nato statement said. The dhow was then able to continue its original voyage.

The suspects have been detained aboard ‘HDMS Absalon’ pending an investigation to decided if they can be prosecuted and a decision will be made "in the next few days," the statement said.

The other rescue took place on Friday, when a US warship, the USS Carney, intercepted the Indian-flagged dhow Al Qashmi off the southwestern coast of Oman.

The 20 Indian crew members were freed and the nine pirates put on a fast boat carried by the dhow and given sufficient fuel, provisions and water to return to Somalia.