'Longest-range' pirate attack

2009-11-09 20:03

Brussels - Somali pirates have launched their deepest attack into the Indian Ocean, firing rocket propelled grenades at a Hong Kong-flagged oil tanker, the European Union anti-piracy mission said on Monday.

The tanker, the BW Lion, managed to escape the attackers and suffered no casualties during the incident on Monday, some 400 nautical miles northeast of the Seychelles and 1 000 nautical miles east of the Somali capital Mogadishu.

"This was the longest range of a pirate attack off the Somali coast ever," said a statement from the EU's Atalanta naval mission, which is working in the pirate infested waters off Somalia.

"Automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades were fired. With increasing speed and evasive manoeuvres the master managed to evade the attack. No casualties were reported," it said.

An EU spotter plane was sent to hunt for the pirates, the statement added.

The world's naval powers last year started deploying warships in the Gulf of Aden in an attempt to curb attacks by ransom-hunting pirates that were seen as a threat to one of the globe's most crucial maritime trade routes.

Pirate groups have since shifted their focus to the wider Indian Ocean, a huge area much more difficult to patrol, and started venturing as far as the Seychelles and beyond.

The small nation, which is highly reliant on tourism and the tuna-fishing industry, has expressed fears that unchecked expansion of Somali piracy in its waters could deal a fatal blow to its economy.

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