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Russians catch three Somali pirate ships

A RUSSIAN nuclear-powered warship has captured 10 pirates in three ships off the coast of Somalia, the Russian navy said yesterday, in the latest indication that the foreign naval presence is having an effect.

A spate of hijackings by Somali pirates brought foreign ships rushing to protect one of the world's busiest sea lanes, linking Europe and Asia, and the number of successful attacks has dropped in recent weeks.

The Russian navy said a helicopter from the Peter the Great warship spotted the pirates in two speed boats on Thursday as they motored toward an Iranian fishing trawler.

The speed boats turned around and headed back to a bigger pirate ship which the Russian warship then intercepted.

"The fate of the detainees will be decided in cooperation with the Russian ministries of foreign affairs and justice," the Russian navy said in the statement. It said the pirates had automatic rifles and grenade launchers.

Pirates from anarchic Somalia target merchant ships sailing through the busy Gulf of Aden, which connects Europe and Asia via the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.

They earned tens of millions of dollars in ransoms last year.

The international presence appears to be having an effect, though, and the International Maritime Bureau's Website lists no successful attacks off Somalia so far this month and only three in January, a far lower rate than late last year.

On Thursday the US navy said it had detained nine pirates off Somalia.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian ship laden with tanks that was released by pirates for a US$3.2 million ransom after five months sailed into Kenya.


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