MOGADISHU, Somalia, (AP) – The crew of two Egyptian fishing vessels overpowered Somali pirates after being held hostage for four months and, with machetes and tools, killed at least two pirates before sailing to freedom, a pirate and businessman said Friday.
The case marked a rare instance of crewmen fighting back against Somali pirates, who usually hold their hostages for months in anticipation of million-dollar ransoms.
One pirate was in custody after local fishermen found him near shore with machete wounds, police said.
A pirate who told The Associated Press he escaped the ordeal said the fight took place near the coastal town of Las Qorey off the Gulf of Aden, one of the world’s busiest waterways and where Somali pirates carry out most of their attacks.
“They attacked us with machetes and other tools, seized some of our guns and then fought with us,” the pirate, who gave only his nom de guerre, Miraa, told the AP in a telephone interview. “I could see two dead bodies of my colleagues lying on the ship. I do not know the fate of the nine others.”
Said Jama Hussein, a businessman in Las Qorey, said local fishermen told him the Egyptian ships left Thursday. He said the crew, who number up to 24, apparently took some of the pirates hostage.
The most prominent case of a hijacked crew fighting back pirates was in April when an American crew fought their Somali captors until their crew’s captain offered himself as a hostage in a bid to save their lives.
The captain was later released after U.S. navy snipers shot his captors and captured one of them.
Pirate attacks worldwide more than doubled in the first half of 2009 amid a surge of raids on vessels in the Gulf of Aden and the east coast of Somalia, according to an international maritime watchdog. The attacks come despite international patrols, including U.S., European, Chinese, Russian and Indian ships.
The higher attacks worldwide were due mainly to increased Somali pirate activity off the Gulf of Aden and east coast of Somalia, which combined accounts for 130 of the ca4ses.
Somalia has not had an effective government since the 1991 overthrow of a dictatorship plunged the country into chaos. Besides frequent land battles, the power vacuum has also allowed pirates to operate freely around Somalia’s 1,900-mile (3,060-kilometer) coastline.
In June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment that would require the Department of Defense to put armed teams on U.S.-flagged ships passing through high-risk waters, specifically around the Horn of Africa where Somali pirates have become a scourge.
The amendment now goes to the Senate. But U.S. military resources are spread thin and onboard weapons, especially in the hands of civilian crew, are seen as an extreme option.
The laws of many nations prevent vessels from carrying weapons, historically for fear they would be used by mutineers.