* Pirates mistake navy vessel for merchant ship
* Incident happens in Kenyan waters
By Celestyne Achieng
MOMBASA, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Kenyan navy officers on patrol in the India Ocean shot dead three suspected Somali pirates who boarded their vessel after mistaking it for a merchant ship, a military spokesman said on Saturday.
The Kenya Navy said the three were in the company of several others who tried to seize the patrol vessel late on Friday some 21 nautical miles off Kilifi.
“The Navy vessel was on normal patrol at around 11 p.m. in Kilifi area ... when four suspected Somali pirates on board a speed boat climbed the vessel, mistaking it for a merchant vessel,” Bogita Ongeri, Department of Defence spokesman, told Reuters by phone.
“Three of them ... gunned down by naval officers while one dived into the sea with bullet wounds during the scuffle.”
Ongeri said the fourth pirate most likely died from his wounds.
“Several others, whose number could not be immediately established, escaped in the speed boat that they were using,” he said, adding that the dead pirates’ bodies had been taken to Mombasa’s Coast General Hospital.
Somali pirates have plagued the busy shipping lanes off the Somali coast, where the Gulf of Aden and its adjacent seas links Europe to Asia, raking in millions of dollars to release ships in captivity.
Over the last few years they have seized dozens of ships, including large oil tankers. In 2009, the total number of piracy incidents worldwide hit a six-year high of 406 last year due to attacks off Somalia.
Earlier on Saturday, pirates hijacked a Chinese ship carrying 29 sailors in the Arabian Sea and told the ship’s owner that they were sailing the vessel to Somalia. [ID:nTOE6AC018] (Editing by George Obulutsa and Jon Boyle)