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Dutch navy operation near the Somali coast

(credit: Dutch Navy)

(BRUSSELS2) During a “routine” exercise, off the coast of Somalia, the Hr Ms Rotterdam of Operation Ocean Shield was taken under “sustained” fire from a group of pirates, announced the HQ of the NATO operation at Northwood. The Rotterdam's boarding party was making an approach from a suspicious dhow near the coast when they came under fire from land and from the dhow itself.

The sailors responded immediately – “ in accordance with the rules of engagement » specifies the NATO press release. But the dhow started to catch fire (probably the gasoline cans hit by the impacts) and people started to throw themselves into the water.

One killed, 8 injured

A crew member of the dhow was “ killed in action » according to NATO, “ drowned » according to the Dutch Ministry of Defense. 25 other people were rescued from the water by the Rotterdam military. “ It is striking that fire was opened on land when the boat began to sink » explained Rotterdam captain Huub Husker. For the occasion, the Dutch used major means: a drone and 3 RHIBs (fast motor boats) in the water. Eight injured people were treated by the medical team on board the Dutch ship. The two sailors from the dhow have been taken into custody and the suspected pirates are being questioned, while their fate is determined.

NB: to this official version we can however add that it does not seem to be quite a routine, totally improvised operation. The presence of a canvas camp on the coast, as well as the prior location with the drone and the suspicious dhow, made it possible to normally identify the vessel concerned as “very” suspicious.

A sensitive chord touched

« We know that pirates want to use the larger dhows as mother ships. This is why we often visit them to see what they include ", explained Commander Ben Bekkering, NATO Wing Commander in the region. “ This is one of the ways we can put pressure on the pirates. We have experienced that suspected pirates openly seek confrontation sometimes but not often. In any case, this shows that we have touched a sensitive chord among pirates. he added in an interview broadcast by the Dutch Ministry of Defence. And he warned: It is obvious that the scourge of piracy has not disappeared and we must maintain our vigilance. The risks to pirates are increasingly significant and while we regret any loss of life, we will address any threats we encounter in a robust but always proportionate manner. »

The Dhow on fire (credit: Dutch Navy)

It should be noted that the pirates who were arrested by the Rotterdam after the attempted attack on the Spanish tuna boat two weeks ago were transferred to the Spanish frigate and could be tried in Spain. One of the suspects, who turned out to be a minor, was released immediately and placed on the beach.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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