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Dutch military captures 13 pirates off Oman coast

world Updated: Dec 03, 2009 17:03 IST

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The Dutch navy captured 13 pirates off the coast of Oman after they attacked a merchant marine ship, the Defense Ministry said Thursday.

Armed pirates on speedboats tried to board the Antigua and Barbuda-flagged BBC Togo, but were repelled after firing on the vessel, the ministry said in a statement.

The pirates then fled to a larger fishing boat 150 nautical miles (240 kilometers) south of Salalah where a Dutch frigate captured them on Wednesday evening, it said.

"A large amount of weapons were discovered on board, among which AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition, boarding hooks and ladders," the ministry said.The pirates were arrested and are being held on the HMS Evertsen, the ministry further added.

Their nationality has not been released. The Dutch frigate is leading an EU naval force in the region to protect food shipments to Somalia and combat piracy. The EU has agreements with Kenya and the Seychelles to turn over captured pirates to them for prosecution, the ministry said.

The pirates captured Wednesday could face those courts, it said. Two Tanzanian fishermen said the pirates used their boat as a floating base for their operations. They claimed the pirates held them hostage for months, the statement said. The Dutch navy returned the fishing boat to the two Tanzanians.

Piracy has remained at high levels this year in the busy shipping lanes along the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean near Somalia, despite a growing number of international warships and extra safety precautions taken by civilian vessels.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since 1991 as regional warlords vie for power, and impoverished young men have increasingly taken to piracy in recent years in hopes of a big ransom payoff.