Yonhap News, Jan. 21, 2011
* Image and caption: Yonhap News, Jan. 21, 2011
Lt. Gen. Lee Seong-ho speaks to reporters during a press conference in Seoul on Jan. 21. (Yonhap)
* Image & caption source: same as the above link
'South Korean special forces on the deck of the Samho Jewelry during a rescue operation on Jan. 21. (Yonhap) '
January 21, 2011
S. Korea Navy Kills Somali Pirates, Saves Crew
By PARK CHAN-KYONG
SEOUL: South Korean navy commandos on Jan. 21 stormed a ship hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean, rescuing all the 21 crew and killing eight pirates, military officials said.
The SEAL special forces boarded the South Korean ship before dawn, freeing all the hostages and killing the pirates in cabin-to-cabin battles, they said.
"This operation demonstrated our government's strong will that we won't tolerate illegal activities by pirates any more," Lt. Gen. Lee Sung-Ho of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a news briefing.
The rescue about 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) off northeast Somalia was seen as a major morale boost for the South's military. It has faced strong domestic criticism for a perceived weak response to North Korea's shelling of a border island last November.
President Lee Myung-Bak, who authorized the operation, said the military carried out the raid perfectly under difficult circumstances.
"We will not tolerate any activities that threaten the safety and lives of our people," he said.
The pirates seized the 11,500-ton ship and 21 crew members - eight South Koreans, two Indonesians and 11 from Myanmar - on Jan. 15 in the Arabian Sea when it was en route to Sri Lanka from the United Arab Emirates.
Seoul ordered a destroyer on patrol in the Gulf of Aden to give chase, and Lee ordered "all possible measures" to save the crew.
General Lee said the commandos moved in after receiving information that the "mother ship" for the pirates was leaving a Somali port.
To distract the pirates' attention, the destroyer fired warning shots and maneuvered close to the hijacked vessel. A Lynx helicopter provided covering fire as the commandos stormed the ship.
The Koreans were assisted by a U.S. carrier, which also provided a helicopter to transfer the wounded Korean skipper.
The military said the Jan. 21 rescue followed a brief gunbattle Jan. 18, when the destroyer encountered pirates who had apparently left the South Korean freighter to try to seize a nearby Mongolian vessel.
The South Korean commandos aboard a speedboat and a Lynx helicopter were dispatched to rescue the Mongolian ship.
That firefight left several pirates missing and thought killed, although their bodies have not been found, a JCS spokesmen said. Three commandos were slightly hurt.
Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan broke the news at a New Year's reception Jan. 21 for the heads of foreign diplomatic missions in Seoul, bringing applause and cheers from the ambassadors, a foreign ministry official said.
The captured five pirates could be brought to South Korea or third countries for punishment, he said.
In 2008 the French military became the first to respond militarily to piracy in the region, when marines raided the yacht Carre d'As and freed two hostages being held by seven Somali pirates. One pirate was killed and the other six captured.
Lee praises Korean troops for 'perfect' raid on Somali pirates
2011/01/21 16:33 KST
By Lee Chi-dong
Timeline of rescue operation on hijacked South Korean ship
2011/01/21 15:28 KST