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Monday 31 January 2011

South Korean commando raid kills eight Somali pirates

South Korean commandos stormed a hijacked ship off Somalia, killing eight pirates, arresting five and releasing the crew of 21 to safety.

Such raids against pirates are rare because most nations' militaries class the risk of injuring the captured crew as too high.

But the dawn operation by South Korean special forces, backed up by a nearby naval destroyer and a Lynx helicopter providing covering fire, appears to have passed off almost without a hitch.

The captain of the Samho Jewelry, a chemical carrier hijacked a week ago, was shot during the release.

A US helicopter airlifted him to treatment on land and his injuries were said not to be life-threatening.

"This operation demonstrated our government's strong will to never negotiate with pirates," said Lt Gen Lee Sung-ho of the South Korean military.

The 21 crew members, from South Korea, Indonesia and Burma, were released with all unharmed aside from the captain.

"This is clearly going to add fuel to the fire of those who say we need just to get tougher with the pirates," said one European diplomat in Nairobi, Kenya, who monitors pirate activity.

"The fact is these raids are extraordinarily risky, and more often than not you can end up with far too many dead hostages."

In April 2009, a French navy commando team stormed the yacht Tanit.

The shoot-out killed two pirates and one French hostage and freed four French citizens. The order for the rescue came after the pirates threatened to kill the hostages.

In the same year, US navy snipers shot dead three pirates who were holding an American captain hostage in a lifeboat after they had abandoned a larger ship, the Maersk Alabama.

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