6c691af931b49210VgnVCM100000e56411acRCRDapproved/thenational/Articles/Migration/2008-Q2Dubai ship crew recall pirate ordeal5c691af931b49210VgnVCM100000e56411ac____Dubai ship crew recall pirate ordealThe 16 Pakistani crew members said they were lucky to be alive after being captured by pirates near Somalia.The 16 Pakistani crew members said they were lucky to be alive after being captured by pirates near Somalia.<p>The 16 Pakistani crew members of a hijacked UAE ship said yesterday they were lucky to be alive after being captured by pirates off the coast of Somalia and then rescued in a shoot-out.
Alia Akbar, second-in-command of the Dubai-flagged Al-Khaleej, said seven pirates posing as thirsty fishermen in need of drinking water came alongside on Monday but after being allowed on board, hijacked the ship at gunpoint.</p>
<p>"We let in three of them. Suddenly four others, who were armed, boarded the ship. They then ordered the captain to change course and took us between Mukalah [in Yemen] and Dubai. They held us there at sea all night," he said.
On Tuesday, armed security officers from the Somali region of Puntland stormed the ship and after an hour-long gun battle with the pirates, rescued the crew members.
"The pirates stopped us at first and asked for drinking water," Mr Akbar, 27, said. "The troops came in the morning, before the pirates had asked us for any ransom."</p>
<p>When the pirates came on board, the crew scattered and tried to hide in different parts of the cargo ship that had been en route from Dubai to Puntland. But they were all found by the pirates, who promised not to hurt them.
The rescue was terrifying, Mr Akbar said. "In the morning many troops on two speedboats surrounded our ship. Then the shoot-out started. It was really frightening. The pirates surrendered after three of them were wounded. I can't believe we are free. It was a nightmare."</p>
<p>The Al-Khaleej will now offload its cargo of food, cars and fuel in two days and sail back to Dubai to bring in more supplies under escort by Puntland authorities.
Mr Akbar, who spoke while standing near the ship at Puntland's Bosasso port, said it was the crew's first encounter with pirates after five years sailing in the region.
A surge in maritime hijackings for ransom in the waters off the coast of Somalia has made it one of the world's most dangerous shipping zones.</p>
<p>The International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which monitors crimes at sea, said the hijacking of the Al- Khaleej was the 12th in Somali waters this year.
Another ship, a Spanish tuna fishing vessel, was hijacked over the weekend and is still held by pirates in Garad, a remote coastal town in the Indian Ocean waters off southeast Puntland.
Somali authorities has sent a force to try to rescue the boat and Spain has sent one of its frigates.</p>
<p>Miguel Angel Moratinos, the Spanish foreign minister, said no ransom demand had yet been received.
"First we have to hear what they are asking for, what they want," he said on television in Spain.
Tuesday's rescue was the second such mission against pirates operating in the area this month after French commandos swooped to arrest six men.
France and the United States, with the help of Britain, are drafting a UN Security Council resolution authorising countries to fight piracy off Somalia and elsewhere.</p>
<p>Additional reporting by Reuters</p>
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