US, Russia grab pirates

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The US and Russian Navies arrested 26 pirates yesterday and Wednesday as the sea robbers surged attacks off the Horn of Africa.
The International Maritime Bureau says 22 vessels had been attacked and three were hijacked since the start of this year, six this week alone.
“We haven’t seen such an increase in attacks for some time,” Noel Choong, who heads the bureau’s piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur, told the Associated Press.
Choong says favourable weather has made it easier for the smaller pirate boats to ambush ships in recent days. He also said seven ships have been released over the past month, likely pushing pirates to try to replenish their stocks.
The latest release is a Japanese-owned chemical carrier, the MV Chemstar Venus and its 23 crew after nearly three months in captivity.
The US Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) yesterday intercepted and apprehended nine suspected pirates in the Gulf of Aden after responding to a distress call from a nearby merchant vessel, the US 5th Fleet reports.  
“At approximately 4am local time, the Indian-flagged Motor Vessel Premdivya sent a distress call to all ships in the area reporting that she had been fired upon by a small skiff, and suspected pirates were attempting to board it,” the US Navy says in the news release.
“Upon reaching the suspect skiff, the helicopter crew from Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light 42, embarked aboard Vella Gulf, signalled for the skiff to stop immediately. When the skiff failed to stop, the helicopter fired one warning shot. A second warning shot was fired when the suspects continued to flee.
“Once the suspected pirates brought the skiff to a complete stop following the second warning shot, Vella Gulf, and the guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) closed immediately to intercept the skiff. Visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) teams from both warships conducted a consensual boarding and found weapons.
“The suspected pirates were apprehended and brought on board Vella Gulf, where they were processed and are being held until they are transferred to a temporary holding facility on board the supply ship USNS Lewis and Clark (T-AKE-1).
“They will remain aboard Lewis and Clark until information and evidence is assembled and evaluated and a decision is made regarding their further transfer,” the Navy says.
The action, yesterday, follows on another on Wednesday when the Vella Gulf arrested seven suspected pirates, bring the number now in US custody to 16. 
Regarding the incident on Wednesday, the 5th Fleet says the Marshall Islands-flagged Motor Vessel Polaris sent a distress call to all ships in the area at 3pm reporting that a small skiff containing seven suspected pirates had attempted a forcible boarding of their vessel using a ladder.
Polaris crewmembers removed the ladder before pirates could come aboard.
“Vella Gulf closed immediately with the M/V Polaris and intercepted a skiff matching the description given by the motor vessel. The skiff contained individuals fitting the physical descriptions given by Polaris crewmembers. A Vella Gulf visit, board, search and seizure team (VBSS) conducted a consensual boarding and found several weapons,” the statement says.
“MV Polaris rendezvoused with Vella Gulf and provided positive visual identification of the suspected pirates. The suspected pirates were brought on board Vella Gulf, where they were processed and are being held until they transfer to a temporary holding facility onboard the supply ship USNS Lewis and Clark”.
The arrests mark the first by Combined Task Force 151, a multinational task force established by the 5th Fleet last month to conduct counter-piracy operations in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.
Russian action
AFP, meanwhile, reports that the Russian nuclear-powered cruiser Pyotr Velikiy yesterday captured 10 Somali pirates armed with grenade launchers, automatic rifles and landmines. Russian Navy spokesman Igor Dygalo said the “nuclear cruiser Pyotr Velikiy has detained three small pirate boats.
The pirates had been spotted by the cruiser’s helicopter southeast of the Yemeni island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean, the spokesman told AFP.
“It was visually established how weapons were being dumped from the boats into the sea,” Dygalo said in a separate statement.
He added that the navy managed to confiscate grenade launchers, automatic rifles, landmines and 500 grammes of a “narcotic substance,” among other things.
The news of the Somali pirates’ detention comes as the crew of a Ukrainian ship captured by Somali pirates arrived home at Kiev airport on Friday after a 19-week hijacking ordeal.
The MV Faina, released last week, docked Thursday in Mombasa with its exhausted crew of 17 Ukrainians, two Russians and one Latvian and controversial cargo of tanks and munitions.
The Russian military prosecutors were now investigating the pirates’ case adding it would be then up to the Russian foreign and justice ministries to determine their fate.