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Piracy latest: Chinese and Danish warships avert Somalian hijacks

Shanghai: Chinese and Danish warships stopped pirate attacks on two different cargo vessels sailing off Somalia, AFP writes. The Chinese navy rescued an Italian merchant ship from pirates, China's state news agency Xinhua said in a one-line report that gave few details.

If verified, it would be the first direct engagement between the Chinese navy and Somali pirates since Beijing dispatched a three-ship squadron for anti-piracy operations in December.

In the other incident, Denmark's HDMS Absalon received a distress signal Wednesday from a Chinese merchant ship, the Yandanghai, saying the crew was trying to fend off pirates using fire hoses, said Cmdr. Jane Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Bahrain-based U.S. 5th Fleet.

When Danish sailors arrived, they found a skiff with seven suspected pirates armed with a rocket-propelled grenade, four AK-47 assault rifles, two grenades and a knife. The men were disarmed, but not detained, Campbell said.

The Danish military said the suspected pirates were let go without the weapons. "The crew was allowed to sail on because of a lack of 100 percent solid proof that it was the same boat that had attacked the Chinese," the Danish Defense Command said in a statement.

The Absalon is part of a U.S.-led naval force set up last month to combat piracy along the lawless coast of Somalia, where attacks on shipping skyrocketed last year.

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