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US destroyer rescues Iranians from pirates

US destroyer rescues Iranians from pirates

The guided missile destroyer USS Kidd, which was in Phuket for four days in September last year, has been involved in a rescue of 13 Iranians held hostage by Somali pirates for weeks in the Arabian Sea.

Saturday 7 January 2012, 07:34PM

The USS Kidd with the dhow it rescued from the pirates.

The USS Kidd with the dhow it rescued from the pirates.

The US military announced that the Kidd came to the aid yesterday (January 6) of Iranians on the fishing dhow Al Molai, whose captain issued a call for help saying “he was being held captive by pirates.”

The destroyer, skippered by Cmdr Jennifer Ellinger, responded to the distress call from the Iranian-flagged fishing vessel by sending in a Navy team to free the Iranian crew, the Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet said.

“A visit, board, search and seizure team from Kidd boarded the Al Molai and detained 15 suspected pirates who had been holding a 13-member Iranian crew hostage for several weeks,” the statement said.

“The Al Molai had been pirated and used as a ‘mother ship’ for pirate operations throughout the Persian Gulf, according to members of the Iranian vessel’s crew,” it added.

The detained pirates — believed to be Somalis — were being held on the aircraft carrier USS Stennis, said a Pentagon spokesman, Captain John Kirby.

“The Iranians and the dhow have been released and are on their way back home,” Capt Kirby told AFP.

Before yesterday’s rescue, another Iranian vessel had issued a distress call while under suspected attack from pirates.

Laguna Golf Phuket

A helicopter from the USS Mobile Bay, assigned, like the Kidd, to the Stennis carrier group, responded to the call for help, Kirby said.

But the pirates threw objects into the water and “they boarded a skiff and we couldn’t detain the pirates because there was no evidence,” he added.

The US and other navies frequently respond to distress calls sparked by pirate attacks in the region, but yesterday’s incident took on special significance after a string of bellicose statements from Tehran over the Gulf.

With the West piling pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program and the EU threatening a total ban on Iranian oil imports, Iran has threatened to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz, particularly after the Stennis group passed through the strait recently.

The US Navy has said it will not tolerate any such move. – AFP

Photo by US Navy.

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