NAIROBI, Kenya — Somali pirates seized control of a chemical tanker in the Gulf of Aden on Friday and a NATO helicopter gunship, too late to prevent the hijacking, picked up three security guards who jumped into the sea.
Both France and Germany, which have ships in the area as part of an international anti-piracy coalition, sent the aircraft after receiving a distress call just after dawn, a French military spokesman. But in the 15 minutes it took to get to the site, the pirates had already boarded and had taken the crew of 25 Indians and two Bangladeshis hostage.
The two British guards who leapt overboard with their Irish colleague were safe onboard a French warship, he said.
Germany and France have ships in the area as part of a NATO fleet which, along with warships from Denmark, India, Malaysia, Russia and the U.S., have started patrolling the vast maritime corridor.
They escort some merchant ships and respond to distress calls in the fight against increasingly brazen pirate attacks off Somalia’s coast, a major international shipping lane through which about 20 tankers sail daily. Friday’s was the 97th ship hijacking this year.
One of the hijacked ships, the Malta-flagged cargo ship Centauri, was released Thursday with all 25 Filipino crew unharmed after more than two months in the hands of pirates, Greece announced.
The ship hijacked Friday, the Liberian-flagged MV Biscaglia, is operated out of Singapore, said Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center in Malaysia.
The pirates are growing bolder. Hugh Martin, manager of Hart Security, said 20 speedboats filled with pirates launched a simultaneous attack on two slow-moving companion vessels off the south coast of Yemen on Thursday.
Hart staff onboard both ships were armed, but managed to use evasive maneuvers and nonlethal methods to prevent the pirates from boarding during the four hour attack, he said.