The vessel was handed over on Thursday at 15:00 local time by the commanding officer of Spanish warship, ESPS Reina Sofía, who is currently operating as part of the EU’s counter-piracy mission off Somalia – Operation Atalanta.
The dhow was accompanied by the Spanish frigate to the limits of Yemeni territorial waters and handed over to the Yemeni coastguards, who then escorted the freed fishermen in to port.
The owner of the dhow, who was present at the handover, was very pleased to have his crew and boat back safe and sound, and he reassured the happy crew that in a few days’ time they could continue their fishing activities in the area, the EU Navfor reports.
The Yemeni dhow had been released from pirates by Reina Sofia sailors on April 15 after a co-ordinated operation by a French Air Force E-3F AWACS aircraft, the French warship Dixmude and an Australian maritime patrol aircraft.
During the operation on April 15, after transferring 20 men from the dhow to Reina Sofia, four of the men were quickly identified as innocent crewmembers. Two Yemeni crew had reportedly already been let go by the suspect pirates after the dhow was pirated in late March.
As neither the crew of the dhow, nor the master of the attacked merchant vessel filed a complaint, the 16 suspected pirates will be released.
According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), as of March 19 there have been 87 attacks against ships around the world this year, resulting in nine hijackings. Of those incidents, Somali pirates were responsible for 36 attacks and seven hijackings. They are currently holding 13 vessels and 197 hostages, 92 of whom were captured this year.
The Bureau records 17 incidences of attempted piracy and ship robbery so far this month. All attempted hijackings in April were unsuccessful, except for an incident on April 6 off Iran. Armed pirates attacked and boarded a general cargo ship, taking hostage the crewmembers and hijacking the vessel. An Iranian warship responded to the alert and proceeded towards the vessel. The warship move closer to the ship resulting in an exchange of fire between the pirates and the navy. The navy managed to board the ship, detain nine pirates and save all 28 crewmembers.
In addition, a fishing vessel and two associated skiffs may have been hijacked by Somali pirates off Yemen on Saturday, the Bureau reports.
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