Chinese fought pirates with "bottles, water cannon"

BEIJING Thu Dec 18, 2008 11:54am IST

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BEIJING (Reuters) - The crew of a Chinese ship rescued from Somali pirates told on Thursday how they used water cannon and bottles to try to fight off their attackers before their rescue.

And a Chinese newspaper said China would send three ships to Somalia to prevent further attacks, but the report could not be independently confirmed.

A multilateral force rescued the Chinese ship, Zhenhua 4, from Somali pirates on Wednesday in a sign foreign navies patrolling the shipping lane linking Europe to Asia are adopting tougher new tactics.

The ship was one of four vessels seized by pirates on Tuesday, the same day the U.N. Security Council took a strong stand against the attacks and authorised countries to pursue the gunmen on land.

A Kenyan maritime group said the crew locked themselves in their cabins and radioed for help. A warship and two helicopters came and fired on the pirates, but did not kill them, it said.

"Seven of the nine pirates landed on our ship, all with weapons," Peng Weiyuan, the captain of Zhenhua 4, said in a telephone interview with China Central Television.

"Our crew, who had been well trained and prepared, used water cannon, self-made incendiary bombs, beer bottles and anything else that could be used to battle with them. Thirty minutes later, the pirates gestured to us for a ceasefire.

"Then the helicopter from the joint fleet came to help us."

Rampant piracy off the coast of Somalia this year has earned gunmen millions of dollars in ransom, hiked shipping insurance costs and caused international alarm.

The Global Times newspaper, a tabloid run by the Communist Party's People's Daily, said on Thursday two destroyers and a large-sized depot ship would set sail for the region after Christmas to defend Chinese shipping.

The first tour of duty would be for three months, it said.

According to Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers Assistance programme, there have been 124 incidents of piracy off Somali this year and some 60 successful hijacks.

Nearly 400 people and 19 ships are being held along the coast, including a Saudi supertanker with 2 million barrels of oil and a Ukrainian cargo ship with 33 tanks.

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