Score one for the good guys. U.S. Marines have reclaimed control of a commercial ship seized by pirates off the Somali coast -- the first such successful U.S. military boarding since the recent upsurge in pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden.
The Marines raided the Antigua-Barbuda-flagged, German–owned Magellan Star (pictured in foreground) in a predawn mission 85 miles southeast of Mukallah, Yemen, and took nine suspected Somali pirates prisoner, according to U.S. Navy Lt. John Fage.
"The key to the success of this mission was the teamwork between the coalition Navy and Marine forces and our international partners," Lt. Fage said in a phone interview from the U.S. Navy's central command center in Bahrain. "It's not just the U.S. It's very much an international and coalition effort keeping these waterways safe for everyone. This is a big area to cover with more than a million square miles of ocean."
Not a single shot was fired as the Marines recaptured the ship, and no crew members or U.S. personnel were injured, Lt. Fage said. "It was great execution by our Navy-Marine coordinated team."
The Marines, who are assigned to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, were operating as part of Combined Task Force 151, an international force designed to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden. Inside the 15th MEU is a maritime raid force that conducted the mission, Lt. Fage said. Twenty-four Marines participated, he said.
The CTF-151 is currently led by its flagship, the Turkish frigate TCG Gökçeada (pictured beyond Magellan Star), under the command of Turkish Navy Rear Adm. Sinan Ertugrul, which was first on the scene to assist the captured Magellan Star. Previously CTF-151 was led by Korean and Singaporean forces.
"This regional problem, truly, has global impact, and we are completely committed to bringing the disruptive acts of piracy to an end," Rear Adm. Ertugrul said in a statement. "We have full support of the international community and will continue to do everything possible to bring security to the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin."
Lt. Fage emphasized the international nature of the task force. "There are a great many countries involved in this," he said. "On any given day when you're looking at the composition of the task force projecting power against pirates in the Gulf of Aden, there are over 20 ships."
Two additional U.S. warships assigned to CTF-151, the USS Dubuque and the USS Princeton, "arrived in the vicinity of the attack to provide support to Gökçeada," the Navy said. Then, the 24 Marines swung into action. Considering the no-shots-fired raid, the pirates must have gotten some good advice: Don't mess with the Marines, whose slogan is "No greater friend, no worse enemy."