Russian destroyer frees tanker, captures pirates, says operator

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MOSCOW: Troops aboard a Russian warship Thursday freed a Russian oil tanker seized by Somali pirates, killing one of the attackers and capturing another 10, the vessel’s operator said.

"The Moscow University tanker has been freed from pirates," the Novoship Company said in a statement. "All crew members are alive and well." The vessel had 23 Russians on board.

On Wednesday, Somali pirates seized control of the oil tanker, Moscow University, in the Gulf of Aden, setting up a high-seas standoff with a Russian destroyer, Marshal Shaposhnikov, dispatched to rescue the ship.

Novoship praised the destroyer and its crew for their prowess in conducting the operation, saying it had been carried out "in the best traditions of the Russian naval mariners."

The crew had been locked into a cabin as the pirates took control in the 20-hour-long siege, the company said.

The crew of the Marshal Shaposhnikov, a large Russian warship with two helicopters and an infantry unit aboard, used firearms to free the tanker and killed one of the pirates, the RIA-Novosti news agency said, citing a high-ranking naval source in the region.

Ten pirates have been detained, it said.

The tanker had been on its way to China from the Red Sea with 86,000 tons of crude oil, believed to be worth around 50 million dollars.

The seizure of the Moscow University was a jolt to the international anti-piracy system put in place along one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.

As of late April, Somali pirates were holding 23 foreign vessels and 384 sailors awaiting the payment of ransom, according to maritime watchdog Ecoterra.


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