Desperate Chinese sailors fight off Somali pirates with beer bottles and Molotov cocktails

Posted on 5:56 AM by Sameer Shah

Bent down low to avoid being shot, this Chinese sailor lights a Molotov cocktail before throwing it overboard at Somali pirates.

Lined up before him are dozens of others he and his shipmates prepared in order to fight off the attackers as they boarded their ship in the Gulf of Aden.

The Zhenhua 4 cargo ship had earlier sent out a distress call as it realised it was being chased by pirates in speedboats armed with heavy machine guns and rocket launchers.

The attack occurred a day after Beijing said it was considering sending warships to the area to help battle piracy.

Another picture shows crew members gathered on deck who tried to repel the boarders with water cannon and beer bottles.

Despite their best efforts the nine pirates clambered aboard after tying up alongside. The 30 Chinese crew then locked themselves in their accommodation area -which includes their sleeping rooms, mess rooms and recreation area - to prevent the bandits from entering the ship itself.

The ship's captain, Peng Weiyuan, told Chinese TV that the crew used 'water cannon, self-made incendiary bombs, beer bottles and other missiles to fight the pirates' during the five-hour stand-off.

'Thirty minutes later, the pirates gestured to us for a ceasefire then the helicopters from the joint fleet came to our help.'

The helicopters had been sent from a Malaysian warship after responding to the distress call sent to the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur.

After blasting the pirates with gunfire, the bandits clambered back into their speedboats and made off back to their coastal hideout.

China's official Xinhua News Agency said the Zhenhua 4 was attacked at 0443GMT on Wednesday. It belongs to China Communications Construction Co., and is registered in the Caribbean island of St. Vincent.

The assault occurred in the same area where a Malaysian-owned tugboat and a Turkish vessel were seized Tuesday, said Noel Choong, who heads the piracy reporting centre.

Choong said the bureau quickly sought help from a multicoalition naval force, which dispatched the helicopters and a warship to the area.

'Two helicopters arrived at the scene first and helped deter the hijacking. They fired at the pirates, forcing them to flee the ship. Nobody was injured,' he said.

'The Chinese ship is very fortunate to have escaped. This is a rare case where pirates have successfully boarded the ship but failed to hijack it,' he added.

Somali pirates have hijacked over 40 vessels off Somalia's coastline this year.

Many of the seizures took place in the Gulf of Aden that lies between Somalia and Yemen - one of the world's busiest waterways with about 20,000 ships sailing through each year.

Wednesday's attempt is the latest in a rising number of attacks by Somali pirates on Chinese vessels. In November, a Chinese fishing vessel was attacked while off the coast of Kenya.

Spurred by widespread poverty in their homeland, which hasn't had a functioning government for nearly two decades, Somali pirates are evading an international naval flotilla to intercept huge tankers, freighters and other ships to hold for ransom.

Including Wednesday's violence, Choong said there have so far been 109 attacks this year off the coast of Somalia, with 42 hijackings.

Fourteen vessels are still with pirates with a total of 240 crew members as hostages.

He said since last Friday, there were also three other reported attacks in the vicinity on a Singapore oil tanker, Italian cargo ship and a Greek vessel, but all managed to escape after intervention by the multicoalition force.

The UN Security Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to authorise nations to conduct land and air attacks on pirate bases on the coast of Somalia.

'The area is just too wide to patrol. Hopefully with the UN resolution, there will be more firm action to stop this menace,' Choong said.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei told the Security Council that China was considering sending warships to the Gulf of Aden, where they would join ships from the US, Russia, Denmark, Italy and other countries.

'China is seriously considering sending naval ships to the Gulf of Aden and waters off the Somali coast for escorting operations in the near future,' He said, according to a transcript of his comments posted on the Foreign Ministry's website.

A naval researcher, Professor Li Jie, told the state-run China Daily newspaper that dispatching China's navy would increase its prominence on the world stage.

'Apart from fighting pirates, another key goal is to register the presence of the Chinese navy,' he said.

China's navy is mainly intended for coastal defence and has little experience operating away from its home ports.

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