Jul 262011

An operation by the US Navy to rescue the Taiwan fishing vessel Jih Chun Tsai 68 which resulted in the death of the master of the highjacked vessel and injuries to a number of hostages was in accordance with existing rules of engagement and in compliance with international law says a statement from the US 5th Fleet command.

At the time of the counter-piracy operation, Stephen W. Groves was part of a NATO-led counter-piracy operation under NATO Task Force (TF) 508 supporting NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield to suppress piracy off the Horn of Africa. For more than a year’s time, the JCT 68 was held by Somali pirates and used as a mother-ship to launch other pirate attacks against vessels off the Horn of Africa.

Based on after action reports and investigation findings, the inquiry concluded that the Jih Chun Tsai’s master, Wu Lai-yu, and three pirates were killed inadvertently by Stephen W. Groves ordnance used to free the mother-ship and disable the pirate skiffs.

As part of the counter-piracy operation, CTF 508 authorized Stephen W. Groves to use force to compel the pirates onboard Jih Chun Tsai to surrender. During the operation, Stephen W. Groves conducted a graduated use of force in an attempt to compel the pirates to surrender, including verbal warnings; warning shots fired in front of the bow; and additional rounds fired in an attempt to disable pirate skiffs located on JCT 68’s bow. After Stephen W. Groves provided verbal warnings and then fired upon the pirate skiffs, the pirates fired upon the Stephen W. Groves with AK-47 assault rifles. After the exchange, the pirates onboard JCT 68 surrendered, and a boarding team from Stephen W. Groves boarded the vessel.

Upon boarding the vessel subsequent to the pirates’ surrender, the Stephen W. Groves boarding team found the ship’s master and three pirates deceased, two pirates injured, and two Chinese crewmembers and one pirate uninjured. The boarding team also recovered a substantial pirate arsenal onboard, including several RPG grenade launchers, heavy machine guns, AK-47s, and ammunition.

A copy of the findings of the investigation has been provided to Taiwan officials by representatives of the American Institute in Taiwan.

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