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Chinese navy blocks attack on Italian ship

CHINESE and Danish warships stopped pirates from attacking two different vessels off Somalia's coast, according to reports yesterday.

A Chinese naval vessel rescued an Italian merchant ship from pirates in the Gulf of Aden yesterday, Xinhua news agency reported.

The destroyer Haikou received an SOS from the Liberia-flagged Italian ship, which reported two unidentified boats approaching. A ship-borne helicopter was immediately sent to the scene.

"When our helicopter reached the area, the two boats were already close to the merchant ship ... and traveling at high speed," said Captain Chen Yi.

Hovering above the Italian ship LIA, the helicopter fired two flares as a warning to scare the boats away.

Two minutes later, the Italian merchant ship sent a message to thank the Chinese naval ship.

It was the second time that the Chinese naval fleet had rescued foreign merchant ships. On January 29, the missile destroyer Wuhan saved a Greek ship from pirates.

In the other incident, the Danish ship HDMS Absalon received a distress signal on Wednesday from a Chinese vessel, the Yandanghai, said Commander Jane Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet.

The Chinese crew of the merchant ship was fending off the pirates using their fire hoses, Campbell said.

When Danish sailors arrived at the scene, they found a skiff with seven suspected pirates armed with a rocket-propelled grenade, four AK-47 assault rifles, two grenades and a knife, reported The Associated Press.

The suspected pirates were disarmed but not detained, Campbell said.


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