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Saturday January 22, 2011

Paskal commandos foil hijack attempt in Gulf of Aden

KUALA LUMPUR: The Royal Malaysian Navy has foiled an attempted hijacking by Somali pirates on the MT Bunga Laurel, a Malaysian chemical tanker, in the Gulf of Aden on Thursday.

Commandos from the navy’s elite team Pasukan Khas Laut (Paskal) on board the navy’s auxiliary ship Bunga Mas 5, headed by Komander Nazri Sharif, arrived in time to save the tanker that was heading for Singapore.

A total of 18 pirates, who were involved in the attack, surrendered. Seven pirates were on board Bunga Laurel while 11 were aboard their mothership.

The tanker, laden with lubricating oil and ethylene dichloride, was attacked by the pirates about 300 nautical miles (555km) east of Oman at 11.40pm.

Ragtag arsenal: Some weapons and ammunition seized from the Somali pirates.

The commandos’ swift action prevented the Malaysian International Shipping Corporation (MISC) from losing the cargo worth an estimated RM30mil, and saved 23 Filipino crew members on board the vessel.

Navy chief Admiral Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar said Bunga Mas 5 had just completed the task of escorting the tanker and another MISC liquefied natural gas carrier, MT Seri Balhaf, bound for Fujairah, to a safe zone called Easton 4 in the gulf.

“MISC Emergency Reporting Centre (ERC) received a security emergency indication at about 11.37pm from MT Bunga Laurel. MISC called Bunga Laurel by phone but there were no response from the vessel,” said Adm Abdul Aziz.

“At exactly 11.40pm, Bunga Mas 5 called MISC ERC to report that Bunga Laurel had been attacked and pirates were attempting to board the ship by using skiffs. A suspected mothership was also reported in the vicinity.

“The 23 crewmen managed to assemble in the citadel (engine room). All lights were switched off and the main engines disabled,” he said, adding that the pirates’ attempt to barge into the citadel failed.

The commando team in two boats, led by Lt-Komander Maznan Said and Lt Noor Asri Roslan, were dispatched from Bunga Mas 5, located 14 nautical miles (25.9km) away, at 1.20am.

At the same time, the navy’s Fennec attack helicopter piloted by Lt Jason Solomon John provided reconnaissance and aerial cover.

Gunshots were exchanged between the pirates from the Bunga Laurel and snipers from the Bunga Mas 5 and helicopter. The pirates’ mothership attempted to move closer to Bunga Laurel but was thwarted.

Eventually, after taking heavy fire from Bunga Mas 5 and the helicopter, the pirates decided to surrender via radio.

All the pirates were captured. Three pirates suffered injuries from gunshots or splinters and given first aid, but no Malaysians were injured.