NAVAL forces have freed an Italian cargo ship that was hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia.
A Royal Navy boarding team met no resistance from pirates aboard the Montecristo, which was carrying 23 crew members - seven Italians, six Ukrainians and 10 Indians – when it was attacked on Monday.
All the hostages were safely released and the 11 pirates on board were arrested after they surrendered.
The operation was carried out by naval personnel aboard the supply ship RFA Fort Victoria, which is based at Marchwood Military Port, and an American frigate.
A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: ‘We can confirm that late this morning the RFA Fort Victoria, currently on NATO counter piracy operations east of Suez, responded to calls to assist a pirated Italian merchant ship, the MV Montecristo, along with an American Navy frigate.
‘Due to the presence of the warships, 11 suspected pirates on board the pirated vessel surrendered without force. A Royal Naval boarding team carried out a compliant boarding of the vessel and the suspected pirates are being detained.’
Pirates flourish off largely lawless Somalia by attacking passing ships, taking hostages and demanding ransoms to free them and the vessels.
The Montecristo’s owner, D’Alessio Group, said that the attack had occurred on Monday 620 miles off Somalia as the crew was hauling scrap iron to Vietnam on a journey that had begun on September 20 in Liverpool.