KUALA LUMPUR: Three Malaysian Navy ships are on their way to the Middle East to provide security cover for Malaysian ships sailing the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden.
A Malaysian Navy frigate, KD Lekiu, and a support ship have reached the Maldives and are heading to the gulf while a third ship – KD Pahang – will leave Malaysia soon for the Gulf of Aden.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said that an unspecified number of soldiers from the navy, army and the air force aboard the three ships would be tasked to protect the five vessels of the Malaysia International Shipping Corporation Bhd (MISC) now sailing in the pirate-infested area.
The ships were also carrying several helicopters with them, he told reporters after receiving food parcels and cash donations from various organisations for members of the Armed Forces at the Defence Ministry here at a ceremony attended by Datin Seri Jeanne Abdullah, who is president of Members of the Association of Ministers and Deputy Ministers Wives (Bakti).
Najib was commenting on the hijacking of two MISC ships – the Bunga Melati Dua and Bunga Melati Lima – and kidnapping of their crewmen, including 65 Malaysians by Somali pirates off the Gulf of Aden last week.
The kidnapped crew were safe according to latest indications and the authorities were in contact with those who had seized the MISC ships, he said, but declined to say more for fear of compromising the negotiations.
Najib said there was no necessity for Malaysia to inform the United Nations (UN) of its intentions to send its fleet there but he would touch on the situation in a speech he would present at the UN in New York on Sept 29.
Defence Forces chief Jeneral Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Zainal said the Malaysian soldiers were not involved in a rescue mission.
“There is no request for us to launch special operations. We are escorting the Malaysian ships to ensure that they have safe passage and to prevent another hijacking from occurring,” he added.
Commercial waterways in the Gulf of Aden are being patrolled by a coalition of warships and aircraft from several Western countries, including the US Navy.
The command of the coalition is rotated among the participating countries.
Meanwhile, an MISC official said that its ships were still banned from the Gulf of Aden until security was enhanced and that negotiations were ongoing for the safe release of the kidnapped crew.
On an unrelated matter Najib said a total of 1,860 armed forces personnel and veterans incapacitated while on duty will receive higher amounts of benefit payments from this month onwards.