EU force frees Iranian dhow from Somali pirates

NAIROBI Sat May 12, 2012 8:22am EDT

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NAIROBI (Reuters) - A European Union naval vessel rescued an Iranian fishing dhow that was being used by Somali pirates as a "mothership" for attacks on other boats, the EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) said on Saturday.

EU NAVFOR said its frigate HNLMS Van Amstel rescued the dhow and its crew of 17 Iranians off the coast of Somalia. Eleven suspected pirates were on board.

"The dhow had been pirated 10 days earlier and was being used to carry out pirate attacks on merchant vessels," it said in a statement.

Somali pirates are making greater use of captured smaller boats for launching attacks as they are harder to track than bigger ships that they used to favor.

The dhow was spotted by a surveillance flight, EU NAVFOR said. It was towing two skiffs and what looked like weapons used to attack vessels.

Although the hijack success rate for Somali pirates has dropped sharply in recent months, sea bandits seized a Greek-owned tanker carrying close to a million barrels of crude oil on Thursday, while it was sailing in the Arabian sea.

(Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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