Sierra Leone police say their country's navy broke up a pirate attack on a Chinese fishing vessel Wednesday this week off the Sierra Leone coast. The police say the pirates forced the crew to hand over their cargo of fish before security forces confronted them. Four of eight pirates were reportedly killed.
Francis Munu, Sierra Leone's Assistant Inspector General of Police for Crime Services told VOAsome of the pirates were Guinean nationals.
"There was a distress call made by one of the fishing companies based in Freetown, the AFRIC Fishing Company, that they had information through their radio network that their fishing vessel had been attacked by pirates. So the message was relayed to the naval wing of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces who wasted no timing in going to the scene. They were confronted by the pirates, and in the course of the exchange of fire, two pirates were killed, four were arrested together with arms and ammunition. And they have been handed over to the Sierra Leone police for investigation. Upon inquiry, they were found to be Guineans and only one Sierra Leonean," he said.
Inspector Munu said the Chinese fishing vessel is now anchored in Freetown Port pending further investigation of the attack.
He said this was not the first time the Sierra Leone navy has had such confrontation with pirates at sea.
"There was a similar incident last year in which members of the Guinean Armed Forces were also arrested. This time again, out of the five people that were arrested four of them are Guineans, and they all have Guinean addresses. Only one of them is a Sierra Leonean, but he joined the group in Guinea," Munu said.
He said the Guineans arrested in previous pirate attacks off the Sierra Leone coast wore Guinean military attire.
Inspector Munu said West African governments should be very concerned about the threat of piracy in the sub-region.
"Governments should be very, very concerned because with the advent of globalization, crime is now transcending country borders. And with the information technology, people are quick to learn and copy what happened in other countries. So although piracy has existed for a long time in West Africa, yet because of the new wave in the Indian Ocean, I think West Africans should be very, very concerned. And one concern is that drugs are also being transported by sea. So if we have this kind of occurrence at sea, then it should raise a lot of concern," Munu said.
Earlier this year in August, a Cessna Aircraft landed at Sierra Leone's Lungi International Airport apparently without a landing permit and carrying about 700 kilograms of cocaine.
Munu said the case against the crew members of the aircraft is still in court.