A U.S. warship captured six suspected pirates Saturday after a battle off the Horn of Africa — the Navy’s third direct encounter with seafaring bandits in less than two weeks.
The Navy has taken at least 21 suspected pirates since March 31 in the violence-plagued waters off Somalia and nearby regions, where U.S. warships are part of an international anti-piracy flotilla.
A statement by the U.S. Navy said the suspected pirates began shooting at the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland just before dawn about 380 miles (610 kilometers) off Djibouti, a small nation facing Yemen across the mouth of the Red Sea.
The Navy said the Ashland returned fire and the suspected pirate skiff was destroyed. All six people on board were rescued and taken aboard the Ashland.
The Ashland suffered no injuries or damage in the second recent attack on a U.S. warship by suspected pirates.
On March 31, the frigate USS Nicholas exchanged fire with a suspected pirate vessel west of the Seychelles, sinking their skiff and confiscating a mother ship. Five suspected pirates were captured.
On Monday, the destroyer USS McFaul responded to the distress call from a merchant vessel and captured 10 other suspected pirates.
The Navy said it was reviewing “multiple options” on the suspects’ fates.
Some suspected pirates have been turned over to Kenya for trial, but there has been some reluctance by African nations to become a center for prosecutions. In December, the Dutch government released 13 suspected Somali pirates after the European Union failed to find a country willing to prosecute them.
One of the suspected pirates accused of attacking the U.S.-flagged merchant ship Maersk Alabama last year is facing trial in the United States.