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U.S. says freighter rescue shows need for anti-piracy cooperation

WASHINGTON (Yonhap News) ― The U.S. said Friday that the rescue earlier that day of a South Korean freighter hijacked by Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea is an example of international cooperation against pirates.

“There’s a great deal of cooperation among countries,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in a daily news briefing when asked about the operation by South Korean Navy commandos to rescue 21 seamen aboard the 11,500-ton Samho Jewelry. “I think this is just an example of that.”

A U.S. navy vessel closely followed the South Korean destroyer Choi Young during the past six days since the hijacking of the Samho Jewelry in the high seas off Somalia earlier this month on its way to Sri Lanka from the United Arab Emirates.

The U.S. vessel has provided information on the movements of the Somali pirates based in Somalia and sent a helicopter to take several wounded South Korean commandos and a hostage to a hospital in Oman, South Korean officials said.

An Omanese navy ship was also at the scene to help the rescue operation.

South Korea successfully completed the unprecedented rescue operation of the South Korean ship with eight South Korean seamen, 11 Myanmar nationals and two Indonesians aboard.

Three commandos were slightly wounded, and the South Korean skipper was shot by a pirate during the exchange of fire between the commandos and pirates. The skipper was not listed as being in critical condition.

The South Korean Navy vessel has been operating in the Sea of Aden since early 2009 as part of the international effort against Somali pirates.

South Korea has paid millions of dollars in ransom to pirates for several hijacked South Korean freighters and tankers in the past years, with $9 million paid for a supertanker late last year being the largest amount.

The South Korean government recently said it will no longer negotiate with pirates to pay ransoms, noting repeated payments just prompted pirates to target more South Korean freighters.

A South Korean fishing vessel, the Geummi 305, with two South Koreans and tens of other foreign seamen aboard, is still being held by Somali pirates as negotiations are deadlocked due to the bankruptcy of the owner of the ship. 

(Yonhap News)
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