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Mystery surrounds piracy report in Gulf

by Nancy Knudsen on 17 Apr 2006
Cheoy Lee Ketch . .
Contradictory reports have been received about a reported pirate attack on the US flagged boat, Tir Na Nog, a Cheoy Lee Ketch, with three female crewmembers.

The first reports were that the Italian Coastguard reported that a U.S.-flagged yacht with three people abroad, had been attacked by pirates wielding rocket launchers off the coast of Yemen after an Italian freight ship reported a distress call. The sailing boat had set out from the Andaman Islands earlier this year on its way via Maldives and Oman to the Red Sea.

'Around 9.45 am (07.45 GMT) an Italian container ship, the Jolly Platino called to say it had heard an SOS message from an American sailing vessel', an official from the Rome headquarters of the coastguard said.

The Italians informed U.S. authorities in the region of the Incident which happened some 25 miles (40 KM) off the Yemen coast.

The official said two U.S. and one Dutch military vessel in the area had been told of the attack but he did not know how any rescues attempts were progressing.

Commander Jeff Breslau, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s fifth fleet based in Bahrain, said: 'Coalition forces are investigating the incident'. He gave no further details.

However, Yemeni coastguard officials have since denied that the yacht had been targeted.

'No attack took place in the Yemeni territorial waters,' a senior coastguard official told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa by phone from the southern seaport of Aden.

'We sent patrol boats to the area after receiving distress calls from the yacht, but they found it sailing normally and its three passengers were unharmed,' said the Yemeni official who asked not to be named.

Piracy is common in the Gulf of Aden and carried out mainly by pirates from Somalia, which has lacked an effective central government since 1991. This is the first reported pirate attack on yachts in 2006 in the area, probably owing to the increased assistance of Coalition Warships operating in the Gulf.
Recently a US warship, the USS Cape St. George (CG-71), a guided missile cruiser, sank a Somali pirate vessel.
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