US Marines raid captive ship off Somalia, seize pirates

President Obama authorized the US Marines to rescue from pirates a German-owned ship off the coast of Somalia. In three hours, the crew was safe and the pirates in custody.

Cryptologic Technician 2nd Class William Farmerie/US Navy/AP
On Thursday, the amphibious transport dock ship USS Dubuque, left, is on station with the Turkish frigate TCG Gokceada, during a board and seizure operation by the US Marine Corps, after the motor vessel Magellan Star was attacked and boarded by pirates on Wednesday off the coast of Somalia.

The crews of pirated ships are gradually becoming more savvy, if the experience of a German-owned vessel boarded by pirates in the Gulf of Aden Wednesday is any indication.

Nine pirates “with a handful of weapons,” including AK-47 assault rifles, were captured in a raid conducted by a team of US marines at first light Thursday morning, according to Brig. Gen. David Berger, director of operations for the US Marines. The troops boarded “unopposed – in other words, no shots were fired,” Berger told reporters in a briefing Thursday.

What they found when they arrived was a safe room where the crew was holed up. That, he said, was “very smart, very wise.” The crew of the vessel, the M/V Magellan Star, continued to communicate with the marines as they were boarding and rounding up the pirates, who are being detained on the war ship USS Princeton. They let marines know " 'we're safe; we're in here,' " Berger said.

The raid to retake the ship from the pirates lasted three hours, from the “first marine on to the last guy off,” he added. The 24-member raid force from the USS Dubuque conducted the rescue, which was approved by President Obama, according to defense officials. The USS Dubuque was on its way to a training exercise in Jordan when the ship sent out a distress call.

The marines entered the ship by water while helicopters conducted surveillance overhead. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has long pleaded with commercial vessels operating in the area to take basic measures to repel pirates, including urging them to speed up or pull in ship ladders when they see pirates approaching.

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