Two anti-pirate actions off Somalia have thinned the ranks of the would-be marauders, a European Union project reported Wednesday.
The latest incident occurred early Wednesday, when would-be pirates in two skiffs approached a vessel off Somalia at high speed, the European Union Naval Force (EU-NAVFOR) reported on its Web site.
But they appear to have picked the wrong target: the vessel turned out to be a Royal Netherlands Navy warship, the HNLMS Tromp, which was patrolling the region, EU-NAVFOR said.
The warship fired warning shots as the skiffs approached and deployed its helicopter to track down the suspects, who had turned tail, it said. An EU NAVFOR maritime patrol aircraft from Sweden tracked a third boat, the suspected pirates' mother ship.
Authorities found ammunition and rocket-propelled grenades in the skiffs, EU NAVFOR said.
Ten suspects were held aboard the warship, then released to one of their boats, it said.
The warship then destroyed the skiffs. Wednesday's incident marks the 11th pirate attack group that has been disrupted in the last two weeks, EU NAVFOR said.
In an incident that began March 4, pirate activity some 350 nautical miles off Somalia led the EU NAVFOR French warship Nivose and maritime patrol aircraft to respond, EU NAVFOR reported.
The next day, Nivose intercepted a pirate group, and sailors boarded two of their skiffs and a whaler, which it identified as the mother ship.
The whaler was destroyed and 11 suspected pirates were detained and flown Wednesday from Djibouti to the Seychelles, where they were handed over to authorities for prosecution, an EU NAVFOR spokesman said in a telephone interview.
Wednesday's incident came a day after pirates released a Virgin Islands-owned, Kiribati-flagged chemical tanker that was hijacked six months ago with a crew of 28 in the Somali Basin 180 miles northwest of the Seychelles, EU NAVFOR said. The MV Theresa VIII, had been held in the pirate stronghold of Haradera, on the Somali coast, it said.
"An unknown ransom was exchanged on the morning of 16 March and the ship is now underway and heading out to sea," it said.
EU NAVFOR's main tasks are to escort merchant vessels carrying humanitarian aid and to protect ships in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.
The coast off lawless Somalia has become a hotbed of piracy in recent years. The pirates normally seek payment to release the ships.