The US navy has captured a crew of suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia

The US navy has captured a crew of suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia, in the first sign of a military crackdown on Somalia’s anarchic coastal waters.

The pursuit began on Friday, after the US navy’s Fifth Fleet, which patrols the Indian Ocean, received reports of “an attempted act of piracy”. The USS Winston S Churchill shadowed the suspected pirate ship overnight and captured the crew and ship on Saturday afternoon. The destroyer tried “aggressive manoeuvring” to stop the suspected pirate ship after failing to establish radio communications, according to a statement from the US navy.
When this failed, “Churchill fired warning shots. About 50 miles off the coast the vessel cut speed and went dead in the water,” the statement continued. After further warning shots were fired, the crew agreed to surrender and crewmen began to come over to the destroyer in a small boat.

Sixteen Indians and 10 Somalis were being questioned on the Churchill last night.

So rampant is the piracy that many shipping companies resort to paying ransoms, saying they have few alternatives. The Semlow, a ship carrying emergency food aid, was held by pirates from June to October last year and was only released after a ransom was paid.

Last November, two boats full of pirates approached a luxury cruise liner, the Seabourn Spirit, and fired rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles before the assualt was repelled by crew members using an ear-splitting acoustic device. Pirates from Somalia are currently holding hostage a cargo ship and four trawlers.