DELHI - Chinese navy ship supported by an Indian navy helicopter thwarted an attack on a Tuvalu-flagged merchant ship by suspected Somali pirates, India's defense ministry said Sunday.

The OS 35 was reported to be under attack Saturday.

"An Indian Navy helicopter undertook aerial reconnaissance of the merchant vessel at night, and at sunrise, to sanitize the upper decks of the merchant ship and ascertain the location of pirates, if still on board," the defense ministry said in a statement.

"Subsequently ... a boarding party from the nearby Chinese Navy ship went on board the merchant ship, while the Indian Naval helicopter provided air cover for the operation."

Cargo ship boarded

The OS 35, which can carry nonliquid cargoes like grain or iron ore, is registered by Oldstone Cargo Ltd, which lists its business address in Tripoli, Lebanon, said the International Maritime Organization. The OS 35 is Oldstone's only ship registered with the U.N. Oldstone could not be immediately reached for comment.

The pirates managed to board the ship Saturday evening near Yemen's Socotra Island despite resistance from the crew, Somali pirate, Bile Hussein, told The Associated Press.

The armed pirates were steering it toward Somalia's northern coast, said an official with the ports ministry in Somalia's northeastern semiautonomous state of Puntland, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Piracy resurgence

Somali pirates in recent weeks have hijacked at least two vessels with foreign crews in the waters off Somalia and Yemen, marking a return of the threat after five years.

Piracy off Somalia's coast was once a serious threat to the global shipping industry. It has lessened in recent years after an international effort to patrol near the country, whose weak central government has been trying to assert itself after a quarter-century of conflict. In December, NATO ended its anti-piracy mission off Somalia's waters.

But frustrations have been rising among Somali fishermen, including former pirates, at what they say are foreign fishermen illegally fishing in local waters.

Source: Voice of America

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