USS VELLA GULF, At Sea (NNS) -- The guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) intercepted and apprehended nine suspected pirates Feb. 12 in the Gulf of Aden after responding to a distress call from a nearby merchant vessel.
At approximately 4 a.m. local time, the Indian-flagged Motor Vessel Premdivya sent a distress call to all ships in the area reporting that she had been fired upon by a small skiff, and suspected pirates were attempting to board.
Upon reaching the suspect skiff, the helicopter crew from Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 42, embarked aboard Vella Gulf, signaled for the skiff to stop immediately. When the skiff failed to stop, the helicopter fired one warning shot. A second warning shot was fired when the suspects continued to flee.
Once the suspected pirates brought the skiff to a complete stop following the second warning shot, Vella Gulf, and the guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) closed immediately to intercept the skiff. Visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) teams from both warships conducted a boarding and found weapons, to include one rocket propelled grenade launcher.
The suspected pirates were apprehended and brought on board Vella Gulf, where they were processed and are being held until they are transferred to a temporary holding facility aboard the supply ship USNS Lewis and Clark (T-AKE-1). They will remain aboard Lewis and Clark until information and evidence is assembled and evaluated and a decision is made regarding their further transfer.
This is the second apprehension of suspected pirates for Vella Gulf in less than 24 hours. There are currently 16 suspected pirates apprehended by the U.S. Navy.
Vella Gulf is the flagship for CTF 151, which is a multinational task force that conducts counter-piracy operations in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea and was established to create a lawful maritime order and develop security in the maritime environment.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusnc/.