From ComNavForCenCom Public Affairs

MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) - At approximately 3 p.m. local time Jan. 21, the U.S. 5th Fleet captured a group of suspected pirates in the Indian Ocean, approximately 54 miles off the central eastern coast of Somalia.

After receiving a report of an attempted act of piracy from the International Maritime Bureau in Kuala Lumpur on the morning of Jan. 20, the guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) and other U.S. naval forces in the area located the vessel of the suspected pirates and reported its position. Churchill then shadowed the vessel through the night and into the morning of Jan. 21.

At 8:03 a.m. local time Jan. 21, Churchill began querying the pirate vessel over ship-to-ship radio. Churchill requested that the crew leave the vessel and board the two small boats the vessel had in tow. Following repeated attempts to establish communications with the vessel to no avail, Churchill began aggressive maneuvering in an attempt to stop the vessel. The vessel continued on its course and speed.

At 11:31 a.m. local time, Churchill fired warning shots. The vessel cut speed and went dead in the water.

At 1:02 p.m. local time, Churchill issued a warning via ship-to-ship radio that it would begin taking further actions to force the crew to respond to questioning and depart the vessel. At 2:21 p.m. local time, Churchill fired additional warning shots, and at that time the crew of the suspected pirate vessel established communications by radio and indicated that they would begin sending personnel to Churchill via their small boat in tow.

At 2:54 p.m. local time, the master of the pirate vessel started sending members of the crew to Churchill. U.S. Navy Sailors from Churchill then boarded the suspect vessel and discovered small-arms weapons on board.

By Steven Donald Smith, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2006 – Pirates are not a thing of the past. They are alive and well, and roaming the seas in search of booty. And U. S. Navy and Coast
Guard officials are determined to stop them from threatening Americans and American interests.

When average Americans think of pirates, they probably conjure up an image of a snarling, rum drinking, eye-patch wearing, 18th century
drunkard with a parrot perched on his shoulder.

This perception is in need of an update. Following a century of decline, piracy is increasingly on the rise. “Although piracy has existed almost as long as
shipping and trade, it appeared to have been eliminated by the end of the 19th century. But piracy had not disappeared.

During the 1970s and 1980s, attacks on merchant ships began to increase, and piracy became a problem that could no longer be ignored,” an official from the
International Maritime Organization, an agency of the United Nations, said.

Incidents of piracy have become even more prevalent over the last two years, especially off the coast of Somalia and in the South China Sea.

In 2004, 330 incidents of piracy were recorded worldwide, of which almost 180 took place in the South China Sea, but “the actual extent of the incidents is very difficult to gauge and there may have been other unreported cases,” IMO officials stated. “The number of reported incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in waters off the coast of Somalia has increased alarmingly… and is becoming increasingly common,” an official said.

“Most of the incidents have reportedly occurred at distances ranging up to 180 nautical miles off the Somali coast, and the reported information suggests a
pattern of well-organized and coordinated activities. “

The U. S. Navy is attacking the issue head-on. In an attempt to make the seas safer for commerce and to thwart terrorist activities, the Navy conducts maritime security operations in various parts of the world.

“The primary focus of (such operations) is preventing terrorists from using the seas as a venue from which to launch an attack or to move people, weapons
or other material that support their efforts,” Naval Forces Central Command spokesman Cmdr. Jeff Breslau said.

But “our maritime task forces are always prepared to respond to mariners in distress, whether they are under attack by pirates, experience engineering
causalities, or have medical emergencies.

Several incidents of piracy aimed at international shipping off the Somali coast have been reported over the past year, including an attack on a Western cruise ship in November and a Jan. 22 incident in which pirates reportedly fired on a commercial cargo ship before hijacking the vessel.

The pirates are currently demanding ransom for the release of the 20 crew members and the vessel, International Maritime Bureau officials said. Pirates have even hijacked humanitarian aid vessels, such as a ship loaded with foodstuff headed to Somalia under the auspices of the U. N. World Food Program, IMO
officials said.

“In today's world, ship safety and security are inseparable. Events have made us all aware of the vulnerability of transport networks and the potential
they hold to be either the targets or the instruments of terror. ” IMO officials said. Even though acts of piracy are not common in American waters, the U. S.
Coast Guard is vigilant in preventing them from becoming so.

Aside from combating drug trafficking and protecting U. S. ports and marine transportation system from terrorism, Coast Guard officials emphasize the
importance of stopping the spread of piracy into American waters to protect U. S. citizens and the flow of commerce. “By its very definition, piracy is about

Our job is law enforcement,” Dan Tremper, a Coast Guard spokesman, said. “We're always on patrol — 24/7. We've got sharp eyes on the water with the goal
of protecting the American people and our economic interests.”

See also: COAST GUARD.