ABOARD USS CAPE ST. GEORGE, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Cape St. George (CG 71) and USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) returned fire on a group of suspected pirates in the Indian Ocean, killing one and wounding five, approximately 25 nautical miles off the central eastern coast of Somalia in international waters at 5:40 a.m. local time, March 18.
Cape St. George, a guided-missile cruiser, and Gonzalez, a guided-missile destroyer, were conducting maritime security operations in the area as part of Combined Task Force 150, a maritime coalition task force currently led by Royal Netherlands Navy Commodore Hank Ort, when they spotted a suspect vessel towing two smaller skiffs heading west toward the coast. As Gonzalez's boarding teams prepared to conduct a routine boarding of the suspect vessel, the two Norfolk, Va.-based Navy ships noticed the group of suspected pirates were brandishing what appeared to be rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launchers.
The suspected pirates then opened fire on the Navy ships. Cape St. George and Gonzalez returned fire with small arms in self-defense.
One suspected pirate was killed and a fire ignited aboard the main suspect vessel. Boarding teams from Cape St. George and Gonzalez took 12 other suspects into custody, including the five injured. The Navy boarding teams also confiscated an RPG launcher and automatic weapons. No U.S. Sailors were injured in the engagement.
The Navy ships are providing medical treatment to the wounded suspects, continuing search and rescue efforts for any additional suspects and collecting further evidence from the vessel and skiffs. Royal Netherlands Navy medical personnel, including a medical doctor, are en route to assist from HNLMS Amsterdam.
Coalition forces conduct maritime security operations under international maritime conventions to ensure security and safety in international waters so that all commercial shipping can operate freely while transiting the region.
On March 15, the United Nations Security Council encouraged naval forces operating off the coast of Somalia to be vigilant and take action against piracy. Pirate attacks against aid ships have hindered UN efforts to provide relief to the victims of a severe drought in the area.
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