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Naval commandos rescue hijacked Korean vessel

Posted January. 22, 2011 11:41,   

Updated January. 01, 1970 09:00


Korean naval commandos rescued Friday all 21 crew members of the hijacked Korean freighter Samho Jewelry from Somali pirates.

In an operation dubbed “Dawn of Gulf of Aden," the 4,500 ton-class Korean destroyer Choi Young rescued eight Korean, two Indonesian and 11 Myanmar crew members of the freighter in a mission completed in nearly five hours and coming six days after the hijacking.

Lt. Gen. Lee Seong-ho, head of combat operations for the Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, said “The vessel Choi Young launched the rescue operation at 4:58 a.m. before dawn Friday (9:58 a.m. Korean Standard Time) and freed all the hostages at 9:56 a.m. (2:56 p.m. Korean Standard Time).”

“In the operation, Capt. Seok Hae-kyun of the Samho Jewelry was shot in the belly but is in stable condition, and other crewmen are safe.”

Seok was taken to a hospital in a nearby country via U.S. military helicopter.

Lee said, “In the operation, 13 pirates were scattered throughout the Samho Jewelry, including the board, pontoon and engine room,” adding, “Our forces killed eight pirates and captured five. All of the mobilized special forces successfully completed the operation without suffering injury.”

The operation was the world’s first in which military forces launched a rescue in a situation where pirates and hostages were together with no casualties. It was also the first time for the Korean military to kill or injure enemy forces in exchange of fire on foreign soil since the Vietnam War.

A Joint Chiefs of Staff source said, “This operation demonstrated our government’s strong will that we will no longer tolerate illegal activities by pirates. We boldly conducted the operation, even risking public criticism expected in the event of failure, to prevent bigger damage.”

“The success of the operation has earned the Korean military recognition for its operational capacity.”

In a statement to the public, President Lee Myung-bak said, “Our military carried out the operation perfectly under difficult circumstances,” adding, “What is most important to us is the lives and safety of Korean citizens. We will not tolerate any act that jeopardizes the life and safety of our citizens in the future as well.”

The Choi Young had earlier attempted a rescue at 8:09 p.m. Tuesday. Three elite special forces of the Cheonghae Unit suffered minor injuries due to attack from pirates and were taken to Oman.

One soldier is undergoing treatment while the other two have been released and are recovering at a hotel. In the first operation, four pirates were reportedly killed or drowned to death.

The 10,000 ton-class Samho Jewelry, a chemical carrier of Samho Shipping, was hijacked by Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea some 2,000 kilometers off the Gulf of Aden on Jan. 15.