British commandos nab Nigerian hijackers of oil tanker

World | 26 Oct 2020 3:48 pm

Sixteen commandos from the  Special Boat Service (SBS) boarded an oil tanker, some fast-roping down from Merlin and Wildcat helicopters hovering above the deck, others rappelling up the side from inflatable ribs bobbing on the black waters below to seize seven Nigerian hijackers.

SBS commandos boarded the Nave Andromeda and regained control of the vessel.

The stowaways, believed to be Nigerians seeking UK asylum, were handed over to Hampshire Police on Sunday night, the BBC said.

The 22 crew members were found safe.

The Ministry of Defence called the incident a "suspected hijacking" and said Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel authorised the operation in response to a police request.

Sky News reports the commandos had been dropped from a Chinook helicopter around the headland earlier on Sunday afternoon, waiting for darkness to fall and the green light to go.

The Nave Andromeda had been sitting idle a few miles off the Isle of Wight coast since mid-morning.

The ship's master had some control and was able to feed information on the seven hijackers back to command teams on shore. That was vital for the SBS to know who they were up against.

The raid on the tanker was authorised by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel after a tense 10-hour stand-off.

According to maritime tracking websites, the ship reached port in Southampton early on Monday morning.

The Ministry of Defence said: "In response to a police request, the Defence Secretary and Home Secretary authorised Armed Forces personnel to board a ship in the English Channel to safeguard life and secure a ship that was subject to suspected hijacking.

"Armed forces have gained control of the ship and seven individuals have been detained.

"Police investigations will now continue. Initial reports confirm the crew are safe and well."

The SBS is the elite maritime counter-terrorism unit of the Royal Navy, with most of its personnel Royal Marine Commandos. 

Lawyers for the vessel's owners - Greek shipping company Navios - said the crew had been aware of the stowaways on board for some time, the BBC said. -Photos: SKy News/@Island Echo/Solent News

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