Spanish navy vessel repels Somali pirates; six arrested

Detained men said they had mistaken military craft for private freighter

A group of Somali pirates tried to commandeer a Spanish military ship on patrol in the Indian Ocean believing it was a private freighter, the Defense Ministry revealed on Thursday.

The Patiño, a 17,000-metric-ton logistics vessel, was attacked early Thursday morning by armed men aboard a high-speed skiff. A helicopter on board the Patiño chased the skiff, preventing the pirates from fleeing. After a brief shootout, six men were captured, five of them slightly wounded.

The incident occurred shortly after midnight when the pirates began firing at the ship.

No one on board the Spanish vessel was injured in the confrontation, but the pirates later told their arresting officers that one of their colleagues was shot and killed when the Spanish navy returned fire, the ministry said. The pirates dumped the body overboard.

The 166-meter-long Patiño is patrolling the waters off East Africa as part of the European Union's Operation Atalanta, engaged to protect fishing vessels and freighters from piracy.

It wasn't the first time that Somali pirates have mistaken a military vessel for a private freighter. In October 2009, pirates on two boats tried to overtake the French military supply vessel La Somme. Five of them were captured following a shootout.

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