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EU Forces Foil Pirate Attacks Near Somalia

European Union naval forces have foiled attacks by Somali pirates on two merchant ships in the Gulf of Aden over the past two days.

Greek officials said pirates tried to attack a Greek oil tanker early Friday but fled when an EU fighter plane, a helicopter and a frigate were sent to the area.

Meanwhile, French military officials said one of their warships intervened to stop an attack on a Panamanian-registered vessel Thursday.

French forces arrested eight men and seized guns and a rocket launcher. The navy Friday handed the eight men over to authorities in Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region.

Also Friday, China's state-run media, Xinhua, said a Chinese cargo ship had shaken off a band of pirates that were pursuing it on speedboats in the Gulf of Aden.

Pirates hijacked more than 40 ships in waters near Somalia during 2008. Warships from a number of nations are now patrolling the region to secure the shipping lanes.

On Thursday, a Malaysian warship foiled one pirate attack but pirates seized an Egyptian cargo ship.

Egypt's Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmed Rizq said about 15 pirates took over the Blue Star early Thursday, and are holding the ship's 28-man crew hostage.

The minister said contacts have been made to begin talks for the ship's release.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.