Shootout on the high seas: The moment NATO vessel opens fire on Somali pirates blasting AK-47s

The pirate ship catches fire after losing the gun battle
The pirate ship catches fire after losing the gun battle

This is the dramatic moment a NATO vessel returned fire on a group of pirates in one of the world’s most dangerous shipping lanes.

The HNLMS Rotterdam, NATO’s flagship counter-piracy boat, was carrying out routine surveillance off the Somali coast when they spotted the suspicious dhow.

But as they approached the boat the pirates pulled out their AK-47s and opened fire – sparking a fierce gun battle.

HNMLS ROTTERDAM opens fire on Somali pirates
HNMLS Rotterdam, right, opens fire on Somali pirates, left

During the brief exchange the dhow caught fire, forcing the crew members to leap into the sea.

One crew member of the dhow was killed and 25 people were subsequently rescued from the water by Rotterdam, which has a 350-strong crew.

Incredibly, despite trying to rescue crew from the stricken dhow, Rotterdam came under sustained fire from the shore – with one of its inflatable boats suffering damage.

The pirate ship catches fire after losing the gun battle
The pirate ship catches fire after losing the gun battle

Commodore Ben Bekkering, the commander of the NATO Task Force, said  “We know that pirates are increasingly using larger dhows as mother ships. Therefore we routinely inspect  them.

“In this instance the pirates openly choose confrontation. This does not happen often and it indicates that we are indeed impeding their operations and in doing so, pushing them to take more extreme options.”

The coastline off the Horn of Africa is renowned for its piracy and EU records show there are currently four vessels being pirated with an estimated 143 hostages held.

But the NATO missions appear to be working with 35 vessels hijacked this year, compared to 74 during 2010.

Commodore Ben Bekkering added: “Firstly, it is obvious that the scourge of piracy has not gone away and we need to maintain our vigilance.

“Secondly, the risks to the pirates themselves are becoming much greater and while we regret any loss of life we will deal with any threat we encounter in a firm, robust but always proportionate manner.”


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