The Central Naval Command of the Nigerian Navy today confirmed the killing of 12 suspected pirates during a rescue operation for a hijacked oil vessel.
The action took place on the Forcados axis of the Delta waterways in the Niger Delta region.
The vessel, MT NOTRE, was carrying 17,000 Metric Tons of Petrol Motor Spirit (PMS) when it was hijacked by suspected sea-pirates in the Gulf of Guinea on August 15th 2013
The Flag Officer Commanding the Central Naval Command, Rear Admiral Sidi-Ali Hassan, said in Yenagoa that upon receiving the report, the Navy alerted NNS Andoni and NNS Ikot Abasi.
Six gun boats and NNS Delta in Warri and the Naval operation base in Egweama, Brass in Yenagoa were deployed in the rescue operation.
According to Rear Admiral Hassan, "Eight NN vessels were used in pursuit of the hijacked MT Norte with 16 suspected pirates on board. The participating ships eventually shadowed the hijacked vessel and forced her back into Nigerian waters.
"An agreed drop point was reached but the suspected militants refused to disembark as earlier agreed, obviously playing for time and darkness to set in.
“They finally agreed to disembark from MT Norte at 2045hrs on 17th of August, 2013 on condition that only one Naval vessel would remain in the vicinity of the MT Norte."
The Rear Admiral said a total of 16 militants disembarked from the MT Norte instead of the 20 that were earlier claimed to be on board. The captain also confirmed that no other militant was left on board and no crew member from MT Norte was taken hostage.
Hassan further explained that after disembarking from the ship, the pirates then tried to escape through the coastline, but the naval formation in Badagry pursued the boat as the pirates engaged NNS Badagry in a gun battle.
The ensuing firefight lasted for about 30 minutes after which pirates were overpowered.
“Four of the militants were alive and unhurt while the rest of the pirates were killed in the cross fire,” he said. “The four survivors, their belongings and three AK 47 rifles were recovered and brought on board NNS Badagry base."
On the possible recovery of the bodies of the suspected pirates, Usman said the survivors who are currently detained at the NNS Delta have made confessions which are helping the Navy in its investigation. The bodies of the sea-pirates killed could not be recovered as their boat sank because of the damage done to it.
Usman applauded the coordinated nature of the response by the various participating units and commands of the Nigerian Navy in the operation.
He said that the Maritime Patrol Aircraft from the Nigerian Air Force supported the operation as it kept the hijacked vessel under constant watch.