A U.S. Navy vessel rescued 13 Iranian fishermen held hostage in the Arabia Sea in the latest action by U.S. forces and the international community to combat piracy in the waters off the Horn of Africa.
The fishermen and their dhow, the Al Molai, had been held for some 45 days by more than a dozen Somalis who had taken the boat by force, hoping to use it to lure and capture commercial vessels for ransom. A team of American military personnel boarded the fishing boat, which was flying Iranian colors, after receiving a distress call from its crew. The pirates surrendered peacefully and are being held while authorities consult with international partners on options for their prosecution. The crew of the Al Molai were given medical treatment, provisioned with food and water, and then returned the ship to its home port.
The incident underscores yet again our nation’s strong commitment to ensuring freedom of navigation around the world, as well as our work with other nations to combat piracy originating from Somalia. Since 2009, the U.S. has worked with 70 nations and international organizations as part of the United Nation’s-organized Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. The group works to coordinate naval patrols supported by more than 30 countries to protect vessels transiting the area, which is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. It also works with shipping companies to improve ship security, aids the governments of Somalia and other countries in the region to combat piracy on shore, and to disrupt the financial networks used by pirates to fund their operations.
While the presence of American naval vessels in the region promotes freedom of the seas and protects vital commerce, ultimately the problem of piracy won’t be resolved until stability is restored in Somalia. To that end, our nation continues to support the Djibouti Peace Process, Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government and other local and regional organizations working toward these same goals.