A merchant ship in the Gulf of Aden successfully fended off pirates armed with a rocket propelled grenade launcher and AK-47 assault rifles, the New Zealander commanding an international taskforce battling piracy in the region says.
The Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 commander, Royal New Zealand Navy Captain Jim Gilmour, was on board his flagship, USS ANZIO, when it intercepted a skiff, disrupting the activities of a group of suspected pirates in the Gulf of Aden.
The ship received a report from the merchant vessel that it had been fired upon by suspected pirates, the US-led Combined Maritime Forces said on its website.
It operates three taskforces, including Capt Gilmour's, and carries out counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, Southern Red Sea, Arabian Sea and Somali basin, an area covering 6.4 million square kilometres.
Other countries taking part include Republic of Korea, Turkey, Singapore and the UK.
Capt Gilmour said the attack was unsuccessful because the merchant vessel ship maintained a 24 hour lookout, had removed access ladders and used evasive manoeuvres.
"This incident is another reminder of how effective these practical precautions are," he said.
Capt Gilmour, who has command of CTF 151 for another two months, is the first New Zealand naval officer to command a major multinational task force in recent decades.
He has been supported by two NZ Defence Force staff officers.
Capt Gilmour's flagship was ordered to pursue the suspected pirate vessel and intercept it, and worked with a separate Nato taskforce, a Japanese naval vessel and Japanese marine patrol aircraft to stop the skiff.
The suspected pirates ditched weapons and equipment that could be used for further piracy attempts, he said.