MONS, Belgium, Oct. 25, 2012 – The flagship for NATO’s Ocean Shield counterpiracy mission came under sustained fire from suspected pirates off Somalia’s coast yesterday, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe officials reported today.
The Dutch warship HNMLS Rotterdam was attacked while conducting routine surveillance, officials said.
A boarding team from Rotterdam was approaching a suspect dhow near the coast when they came under fire from ashore and from the dhow itself. When Rotterdam returned fire in accordance with rules of engagement, officials said, the dhow ignited and crew members were seen leaping into the water. One dhow crew member was killed in this action, and 25 people were subsequently rescued from the water by Rotterdam crew members, officials said.
Commodore Ben Bekkering of the Dutch navy, commander of the NATO Task Force, said that the Rotterdam and her boats remained under sustained fire from the shore throughout the incident, even while attempting to rescue the crew of the stricken dhow. One of Rotterdam’s rigid inflatable boats was damaged, he said.
Those rescued were transferred to the NATO flagship, where those who required it were given prompt medical attention. No Rotterdam crew members were injured.
“We know that pirates are increasingly using larger dhows as mother ships,” Bekkering said. “Therefore, we routinely inspect them. In this instance, the pirates openly choose confrontation. This does not happen often, and it indicates that we are, indeed, impeding their operations and in doing so, pushing them to take more extreme options.”
Bekkering praised the “calm professionalism” of the Rotterdam crew and said this incident, together with Rotterdam’s successful Oct. 11 interdiction of seven pirates, made two things very clear.
“Firstly, it is obvious that the scourge of piracy has not gone away, and we need to maintain our vigilance,” he said. “Secondly, the risks to the pirates themselves are becoming much greater, and while we regret any loss of life, we will deal with any threat we encounter in a firm, robust, but always proportionate, manner.”