U.S. Marines rescued the crew of a hijacked German-owned ship in the Gulf of Aden in the pre-dawn darkness Thursday, apprehending nine pirates without firing a shot.
Two dozen Marine commandos took control of the Magellan Star, a cargo ship, by slipping alongside it in small boats and climbing aboard on ladders, U.S. military officials said. The pirates, all Somali nationals, surrendered within minutes and are in the custody of the U.S. Navy.
“The pirates were definitely overmatched,” Vice Adm. Mark Fox, commander of the U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain, said in a telephone interview. “We created a good plan and executed it really well.”
The dramatic rescue occurred one day after pirates captured the ship, the latest in a string of pirate attacks and hostage-takings in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.
In this case, the Magellan Star’s 11-member crew had thwarted the pirates by barricading themselves in an engineering room and leaving the ship to float dead in the water, about 100 miles off the coast of Yemen. That enabled the Marines to board the ship without fear of hurting the crew, which also had a radio and was able to maintain contact with their rescuers, Fox said.
The crew members were freed and reported uninjured.
The commandos are from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Raid Force, and are serving as part of a multinational task force to tackle piracy, which is endemic in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.
U.S. officials now face the challenge of deciding what to do with the nine pirates captured Thursday.
Somalia lacks a functioning central government, so returning the pirates there would mean they would likely just go free.
The United States and other nations that conduct anti-piracy patrols in the Indian Ocean and its vicinity have sent prisoners in the past to Kenya and the Seychelles, the only two countries in the region that have agreed to prosecute Somali pirates.