A Belgian navy ship is on its way to fight piracy off Somalia, as part of international efforts to stop a growing number of attacks on commercial vessels.
Somali gunman yesterday seized a Belgian ship and its 10 crew; also yesterday, Dutch commandos freed 20 Yemeni hostages captured by pirates. The Belgian frigate is stopping off in Britain to learn more about combat techniques at sea. Belgian Navy commander Jan de Beurme said: “We have a weaponry system that ranges from missiles and 76 millimetre canons to light arms. “During this training period with the British, we’re learning how to make the most of this system. The big challenge during this kind of operation is to work out the difference between an innocent civilian boat and a pirate boat.” Numerous countries are contributing to regular patrols off Somalia, but pirate attacks on ships have continued. There are some successes, however. NATO forces yesterday foiled an attack on a Norwegian tanker. The Belgian vessel seized yesterday, the Pompei, is said to be slowly sailing towards the Somali coast. A helicopter from the Spanish navy has spotted the ship, but there is no word yet on whether the pirates have issued a ransom demand.