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Old 06-14-2005, 10:05 PM   #1
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By JACK DORSEY, The Virginian-Pilot

© June 9, 2005 | Last updated 1:34 PM Jun. 9

The Norfolk-based guided missile destroyer Gonzalez, using machine gun fire, rocket flares and searchlights, helped ward off a suspected pirate attack of a civilian ship in the Indian Ocean.

The Gonzalez received word of the attack in a radio call from the master of the motor vessel Tigris early Monday off the coast of Somalia, the Navy said Wednesday in a release from the 5th Fleet in Bahrain.

The master “sounded extremely scared,” provided his position and requested immediate assistance, according to Cmdr. Jeffrey Griffin, the Gonzalez’s captain.

As the Gonzalez made its best speed toward the raiders, it let the pirates know its presence by firing .50-caliber machine guns, turning on searchlights, and firing flares in the direction of the attack to illuminate the area, the Navy said.

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“I believe that Gonzalez’s very overt approach was likely observed by pirates, who then broke off contact on Tigris,” Griffin said.

The Gonzalez remains in the area conducting maritime security operation while monitoring the Tigris’ passage.

No nationality, size or further description of the Tigris was available. Neither was there a description of the number of alleged pirates or how they escaped.

The Gonzalez, like other U.S. and coalition ships assigned to the area, are responsible for denying international terrorists use of the sea for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material, the Navy said.

The Gonzalez left Norfolk March 25, as part of the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group.

Piracy, particularly in the South East Asian region, remains a significant problem, according to the Daily International Vessel Casualties & Pirates Daily Report, on a Web site compiled by the law offices of Countryman & McDaniel, of Los Angeles.

Small tankers, slow moving tugs and barges and even large bulk carriers continue to be attacked, the Web site noted. In some cases, ship officers and crews have been kidnapped and shipowners held for ransom to secure their release.

Reach Jack Dorsey at (757)446-2284 or jack.dorsey@pilotonline.com.
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