|South Korean naval special forces detain Somali pirates on the Samho Jewelry vessel in the Arabian Sea January 21, 2011. (Xinhua/AFP Photo)
NAIROBI, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- South Korean Naval Special Forces have rescued the Samho Jewelry which was hijacked by the Somali pirates on Saturday, approximately 350 nautical miles southeast of the port of Muscat, Oman, a regional maritime official confirmed on Friday.
Andrew Mwangura, the East Africa coordinator of Seafarers Assistance Program (SAP), said the Maltese flagged and Norwegian owned product tanker was rescued late Thursday by the South Korean Navy, which also killed eight pirates during the rescue mission. "The Samho Jewelry has been rescued by the South Korean Navy. Eight pirates were killed during the rescue mission and five arrested," Mwangura told Xinhua by telephone from Kenya's port city Mombasa
Somali pirates hijacked the 19,609-tonne Norwegian owned vessel on Jan. 15 en route to Sri Lanka from the United Arab Emirates with 21 crew members from Myanmar, Korea and Indonesia.
Mwangura said the rescue operation for the vessel carrying chemicals took place in high seas about 1,300 km off northeast Somalia.
Reports say the operation came after a brief gun battle on Tuesday when the South Korean destroyer Choi Young, pursuing the Samho Jewelry, detected Somali pirates who apparently got off the vessel to hijack a Mongolian vessel nearby.
The pirates have intensified their action in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden and most of hijackings end without casualties when a ransom has been paid, but often after several months of negotiations.
The Gulf of Aden, a body of water between Somalia and Yemen, is the main sea route between Europe and Asia. Tankers carrying Middle East oil through the Suez Canal must pass first through the Gulf of Aden.
About 4 percent of the world's daily oil supply is shipped through the gulf.
The attacks are being carried out by increasingly well- coordinated Somali gangs armed with automatic weapons and rocket- propelled grenades, maritime officials said.
The Horn of Africa nation has been without a functioning government since 1991, and remains one of the world's most violent and lawless countries.
Combined Task Force 150, a naval alliance dominated by the United States and based in the Gulf of Aden nation of Djibouti, is patrolling an area within the Gulf of Aden to help protect ships from pirates.