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Gulf of Guinea Pirates Killed as Danish Armed Forces Signal Intent

The Esbern Snare had only been in the region a short time, having departed Denmark for its six-month deployment in the Gulf of Guinea at the end of October.

The Danish Armed Forces report that on November 24, the crew of the frigate Esbern Snare responded to reports of an increased risk of piracy in the waters south of Nigeria. The frigate headed in that direction and sent the ship’s Seahawk helicopter in advance to observe.

The crew of the helicopter found a number of merchant ships and a fast-moving motorboat with eight suspicious men on board. On board the ship, the helicopter crew could see equipment associated with piracy, including ladders.

When the Esbern Snare approached, it sent the Frogman Corps in their fast-moving RHIB boats to board the pirate ship. The Esbern Snare called the pirates to bring them to a halt so that the Danish soldiers could board. When the pirates did not react, the Danish forces fired warning shots. The pirates then opened fire directly on the Danish soldiers. The Danish soldiers reacted in self-defense and responded to the fire from the pirates. No Danish soldiers were injured, but five pirates were hit. Four of the pirates died, one was injured.

After the exchange of fire, the pirate ship sank. The eight pirates were taken aboard the frigate Esbern Snare, where one wounded man was treated for his injuries.

The Gulf of Guinea is one of the most risky waters for civilian shipping, and piracy in the waters poses a problem for Denmark, which is the world’s fifth-largest shipping nation. On average, up to 40 Danish-operated ships sail in the Gulf of Guinea on a daily basis.

The Esbern Snare had only been in the region a short time, having departed Denmark for its six-month deployment in the Gulf of Guinea at the end of October. It had previously been deployed on security missions in East Africa. 

In addition to the frigate and its permanent crew, the navy assets for the Gulf of Guinea deployment also include a Seahawk helicopter, military police personnel, and a detachment of naval special forces. It also includes an expanded medical team. The deployed personnel comprise up to approx 175 people.

Denmark has wasted no time in signaling its intent and commitment to maritime security in the region. When the frigate left Denmark, its commander, Lars Povl Jensen, said that he expected that the visible presence of the Esbern Snare in the area would be a deterrent for pirates, but that the ship would also try to actively locate pirates and intervene where possible if pirate attacks occur.

Following the incident, the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, met with the Danish Ambassador to Nigeria, His Excellency, Sune Krogstrup.

NIMASA said the incident took place in international waters 25 to 30 nautical miles south of the Nigerian territorial boundaries. Dr. Jamoh assured that all stakeholders were interacting, adding that the Agency will continue to do everything within its powers, including collaborations, to ensure the Gulf of Guinea remains a safe place for legitimate maritime activities.

“NIMASA is in contact with the Nigerian Navy and relevant actors, as we continue to collaborate towards a total de-confliction, not only in our waters, but also in the Gulf of Guinea,” he said.

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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