Asia-Pacific

Malaysia navy foils ship hijack attempt, seizes pirates

Malaysian navy commandos guard seized pirates on board MT Bunga Laurel
Image caption The seized pirates could be tried in Malaysia

Malaysia says its navy commandos have foiled an attempted hijacking of a ship in the Gulf of Aden, rescuing 23 crew and capturing seven Somali pirates.

It says the commandos injured three pirates during a gun battle on board the Malaysian-flagged MT Bung Laurel chemical tanker on Friday.

The navy was alerted by a distress signal from the vessel's crew.

Kuala Lumpur is now considering whether the pirates should face trial in Malaysia.

"We will determine what we should do, whether we are going to bring them here to be tried or take any other appropriate action," Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said.

He also said he was "proud of our navy, which acted with full efficiency and demonstrated courage".

The Malaysian Royal Navy said an attack helicopter was also involved in the rescue operation about 555km (300 miles) east off the coast of Oman.

No-one among the commandos or the crew was injured.

'Alarming' rise

Pirates took a record 1,181 hostages in 2010, despite increased patrolling of the seas, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said in its report released earlier this month.

It described as "alarming" the continued increase in hostage-taking incidents - the highest number since the IMB began monitoring in 1991.

It also said that 53 ships were hijacked worldwide - 49 of them off Somalia's coast - and eight sailors were killed.

Overall, there were 445 pirate attacks last year - a 10% rise from 2009.

Although naval patrols - launched in 2009 in the Gulf of Aden - had foiled a number of attacks, Somali pirates were now operating farther offshore, the IMB added.

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