- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 29, 2009

JERUSALEM | The Seychelles coast guard said Tuesday it had arrested nine suspected Somali pirates thought to be behind the weekend attempt to hijack a luxury cruise liner that was foiled by private Israeli security guards.

A coast guard statement reported by the Associated Press said the nine arrived in a port of the Seychelles islands on Tuesday and were being held in a local jail.

They were thought to have participated in the attempted hijacking of the MSC Melody.

The Melody, carrying about 1,000 passengers and 500 crew, was en route from Durban, South Africa, to Genoa, Italy, on a 22-day cruise.

It was reportedly the first time that civilian guards have used gunfire against pirates since the current spate of piracy began off the East African coast.

The pirates fired automatic weapons as their small boat approached the liner after nightfall. They were repelled by fire from pistols and by water hoses wielded by Israeli security guards hired by the shipping line, MSC Cruises.

“The [pirates] didnt expect such a quick response,” the companys director, Domenico Pellegrino, told the AP. “They were surprised.”

Mr. Pellegrino said that his line had Israeli security men aboard all of its vessels. “We use them because they are the best,” he said. “And we have just had a demonstration of that.”

Israeli security companies usually supply their clients with young men who have recently completed their three-year army service and hire out as security guards for a year or two to earn some money and see the world. Many are veterans of commando units.

There were no guards aboard an Israeli cargo vessel owned by the Zim Shipping Co., which was attacked by pirates off Somalia last month. The company, however, had hung coils of barbed wire around the hull, which foiled the pirates attempts to board.

Meanwhile, a Russian naval destroyer on Tuesday seized 29 suspected Somali pirates, according to Russian news agencies cited by Agence France-Presse.

“The Admiral Panteleev captured Tuesday at 1412 GMT a boat carrying pirates. In total, 29 people were arrested,” the Defense ministry said in a statement.

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