According to a BBC News report, Somali pirates have turned over a Danish cargo ship, the Danica White, to a French military vessel. The ship’s five crew were reported safe. The pirates, said to be Islamic militants, had held the ship and its crew since early June when they seized the vessel, loaded with building materials and headed for Mombasa, Kenya. Kenyan maritime officials said the pirates had demanded a $1.5 million ransom for the ship and its crew, but BBC news was unclear whether the ransom had been paid.
A few days after the ship was seized, a United States warship gave chase, fired warning shots across the bow of the commandeered ship, and destroyed three of the pirate boats. The US ship backed off when the Danica White fled into Somali waters.
The waters off the Somali coast are currently considered the most pirate-infested in the world. In November of 2005, the German ship Seabourn Spirit was attacked in that region by pirates in two speedboats, who used machine guns and rocket propelled grenades. Though several RPGs struck the ship, the weapons had apparently been kept in a state of disrepair and miraculously none of them went off — not even the one wedged into the wall of a stateroom, whose elderly occupant was taking a shower at the time, according to a History Channel documentary on the subject.
The Seabourn Spirit‘s crew fought back against the pirates by using a long range acoustic device, or LRAD, a high-tech non-lethal weapon that blasts powerful sound waves. The Seabourn Spirit also destroyed one of the pirate boats by running it over. (That’s the spirit!) All 151 passengers escaped injury during the unsuccessful attack, but one crew member was struck by shrapnel while using the LRAD. The pirates reportedly waved at passengers between volleys of gunfire while the old folks snapped a few for their Flickr streams.
The Strait of Malacca between Indonesia and Malaysia runs a close second to Somali waters in pirate attacks. The International Maritime Board also reports grave concerns about the area near the Basra oil terminal in the south of Iraq and the Bonny River in Nigeria.
Pirate flag from Wikipedia.