Turkish navy arrests 14 pirates, rescues seven off Oman

May 14, 2012, Monday/ 14:47:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Turkish naval forces detained 14 Somali pirates and rescued seven hostage Yemeni sailors off the coast of Oman on Sunday, the latest operation by NATO's joint counter piracy task force Ocean Shield.

According to a report posted on the Turkish Armed Forces' (TSK) website on Sunday, the Turkish frigate Giresun intercepted the pirates 190 nautical miles off the Omani coast after the pirate vessel was sighted by a helicopter accompanying the Giresun in an area known for pirate attacks.

Turkish commandos stormed the Yemeni fishing vessel, which had been hijacked by pirates, and seized a cache of nine assault rifles, a rocket launcher and other weapons, the TSK report stated. Photos accompanying the report show the 14 pirates raising their hands in the air on the crowded deck of the vessel as a helicopter hovers overhead and Turkish commandos board the vessel from a speedboat.

Since 2009, the Turkish navy has participated in the international mission to patrol the dangerous waters off Somalia's northeastern tip. Somali-based pirates prey on the key maritime route leading to the Suez Canal, which carries an estimated 30 percent of the world's oil supply.

The International Maritime Bureau recorded 439 acts of piracy worldwide last year, most of which occurred off the coast of Somalia.

The region's heavily armed pirates sometimes hold ships for months before releasing them for ransoms paid by their owners or governments.

Last week, 26 sailors were taken captive when pirates seized a Greek-owned oil tanker carrying approximately 1 million barrels of crude oil -- worth close to $115 million at current prices -- while the vessel was sailing in the Arabian Sea.

While the NATO mission has helped curb piracy attacks in recent years, Oceans Beyond Piracy, an American-based piracy watch group, estimates Somali piracy cost the world economy nearly $7 billion last year. It estimates that $2 billion of that sum was spent on multinational military operations, anti-piracy equipment and security guards.

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