British and US commandos raided a hijacked Italian vessel off the coast of Somalia on Tuesday, capturing the pirates and freeing the carrier's crew of 23, the Italian government said.
"The vessel has been freed... thanks to the joint intervention of two ships from the United States and British navies" operating as part of NATO's anti-piracy operations, Ocean Shield, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
The pirates, said to number 11, "gave themselves up and are being held in detention," the statement added.
Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa told journalists at a press conference that the US and British commandos had used helicopters to judge the danger a raid would pose to the crew, but had met no resistance from the pirates.
"A British helicopter flew over the bridge and the pirates gave themselves up immediately," he said.
"Some had already thrown their weapons into the sea," he added.
In London, the Ministry of Defence said the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessel Fort Victoria boarded the MV Montecristo without opposition after responding to a call for help from the Italian ship and a US Navy frigate.
"Due to the presence of the warships, 11 suspected pirates on board the pirated vessel surrendered without force," an MoD spokesman said.
I certainly hope the US and UK governments will not release the Pirates like they did last time:
A U.S. Navy ship has sunk a pirate "mother ship" in the Indian Ocean and captured 11 pirates, and then promptly let them go.
It was the second time within 24 hours that U.S. forces captured Somali pirates. Earlier Thursday, five pirates were taken into custody after they attacked a U.S. warship.
While those five pirates remain in custody, the 11 captured Thursday were allowed to leave in small skiffs after the mother ship was sunk. The action prompted a Pentagon spokesman to deny that the Navy had a "catch and release" policy regarding pirates.
A Naval official told ABC News that the practice of releasing pirates is not unhe
ard of. While piracy is illegal according to international maritime law, it is considered a criminal issue, not a national security one.
If the country of the attacked ship does not want to prosecute the pirates, and if Kenya, which has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Naval forces, does not agree to prosecute them, there are few options as to where the suspected pirates can be held and tried.