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Friday January 2, 2009

RMN helps Indian tanker

PETALING JAYA: The Royal Malaysian Navy experienced its first combat in the new year when its Fennec helicopter drove off two pirate skiffs pursuing Indian crude oil tanker MT Abul Kalam Azad in the dangerous pirate-infested Gulf of Aden.

KD Sri Inderasakti commanding officer Kapt Mohamad Adib Abdul Samad received a distress call at 6.30am (local time) from the Indian vessel.

The vessel, with 40 crew members, was heading for the Suez Canal with a full load of crude oil, said RMN Fleet Operations Commander vice-admiral Datuk Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin yesterday.

During the 40-minute combat, seven pirates on board the two skiffs were shooting rapidly at the tanker damaging the bridge, ship quarters and the radar, he said.

To the rescue: The RMN Fennec helicopter gunship (above) drove off two pirate skiffs pursuing the Indian crude oil tanker Abul Kalam Azad (inset) in the dangerous pirate-infested Gulf of Aden.

“It was a tense morning,” he said. “Sri Inderasakti received the SOS call from the Abul Kalam Azad about 15 nautical miles away at the time,” he added.

In rapid response, Kapt Mohamad Adib dispatched the ship-borne Fennec helicopter gunship armed with twin general purpose machine guns and an elite Naval Special Forces (Paskal) airborne sniper.

“The Abul Kalam Azad was

also advised to make its way toward our ship for better protection.

Sri Inderasakti too had turned

and was heading to the scene by then,” Ahmad Kamarulzaman

said.

The Fennec, piloted by Leftenan Muliadi Mohd Noor reached the scene where the two skiffs were chasing the tanker and shooting at it with assault rifles.

A Saudi Arabian navy vessel HMS Al Dammam, believed to be part of the European Union’s Coalition Task Force 150, had also dispatched its own Dauphin helicopter gunship at this point, he added.

Both ships took turns to deter the pirates while giving the oil tanker cover, he said, adding that the skiffs then escaped south-east.

The vessel then headed west, escorted by the Al Dammam.

The encounter was the second time the Sri Inderasakti helped to foil hijack attempts by pirates in the gulf, the first one being the Chinese crane vessel Zhenhua 4 on Dec 18.

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