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article imageTop pirate leader retires as NATO, EU navies keep up the pressure

By Christopher Szabo     Jan 11, 2013 in World
Mogadishu - A joint operation by NATO and the EU has captured a total of 20 pirates and with piracy hitting a three-year low, a key pirate leader has announced his retirement.
According to a release from the EU Naval Force Somalia (EUNAVFOR) a merchant ship sailing 260 miles of the Somali coast reported it was coming under attack by six men in a fast boat. The ship was able to repel the attack and sent out a distress signal.
The USS Halyburton, a frigate operating under the NATO Operation Ocean Shield (Combined Task Force - CTF - 508) on station 80 sea miles away launched her helicopter, which located a boat towing another with several men on board.
While a German EU NAVFOR Maritime Patrol Aircraft flew overhead, the EU's Operation Atalanta (CTF - 465) with the French Navy frigate FS Surcouf arrived on the spot at high speed and its boarding team apprehended the suspected pirates, 12 in all. EU NAVFOR's website indicates legal steps will be taken against them.
The FS Surcouf is not the first vessel in the French Navy to bear the name. There have been five ships named after Robert Surcouf.
Ironically, Surcouf was a privateer -- a type of gentleman pirate -- during the Napoleonic wars. Another Surcouf was a giant submarine . The vessel disappeared under mysterious circumstances in the Caribbean in 1944, giving rise to numerous conspiracy theories about its demise.
Meanwhile Defenceweb reports that piracy off the Horn of Africa is at a three-year low and top pirate leaders are hanging up their AK-47s.
Mohamed Abdi Hassan, also known as "Afwene", or "Big Mouth", said:
"After being in piracy for eight years, I have decided to renounce and quit, and from today on I will not be involved in this gang activity, I have also been encouraging many of my colleagues to renounce piracy too, and they have done it."
Wired says from January to September last year, Somali pirates attacked a total of 70 ships, down from 199 in 2011. In the period July to September, only one ship was attacked, compared with 36 in 2011.
Naval authorities, however, have warned that the danger is not yet over and called on ship's companies and operators to remain vigilant and to take "best practices", suggested by maritime organisations, seriously.
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