MONROVIA – The Ministry of National Defense says security within the sub-region of West Africa has been challenged over the years with a rise in terrorism, insurrection, human and drug trafficking, and maritime crimes.
The ministry said these crimes affect Liberia’s social and economic well-being and undermines national security.
The Armed Forces of Liberia through the Liberian Coast Guard conducted a special Maritime Interdiction Operation (MIO) from July 23rd to 24th 2023, following a piracy alert reported by the Sierra Leone Navy.
The operation was carefully coordinated by Headquarters Armed Forces of Liberia executed by the Liberian Coast Guard lasted for about twenty-eight hours on the water and subsequently continued after the seized vessel was brought to harbor at the Liberian Coast Guard Base on Bushord Island.
The seized vessel had twenty-three crew members onboard when it was taken over by approximately eight pirates.
Among the crew members, there are six Chinese and seventeen Sierra Leoneans.
“Headquarters Armed Forces of Liberia was alerted on 23 July 2023, at about 0800hrs through a signal message from the Sierra Leone Navy Joint Maritime Operation Center about an incident of piracy in the Sierra Leonean Water,” the ministry said in a release.
“The message indicated that “2 fishing vessels F/V Aliman and F/V Shenghai-2 were attacked by pirates/robbers at a specified position 08o 22’ N, 013o 32’ W off the shore of Sierra Leone on 22 July 23. The pirates had hijacked and taken away one of the fishing vessels F/V Shenghai-2.”
On receipt of the information, the ministry added, the Liberia Coast Guard Maritime Operation Center immediately commence continuous monitoring and coordination with Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire Navies to facilitate possible response.
“After hours of monitoring and surveillance, the Liberian Coast Guard Maritime Operation Center spotted the alleged pirates, vessel crossed over to Liberia from Sierra Leone.”
“By 1300hrs on 23 July 23, the LCG launched the special Maritime Interdiction Operation (MIO). The Liberia Coast Guard Maritime Operation Center under the direction of Headquarters Armed Forces of Liberia detailed two boats for the operation and eleven sailors. After about twelfth hour of an intense search for the seized vessel, the special operation team of the Liberian Coast Guard spotted the suspected vessel at a distance close to the Liberia- Sierra Leone International maritime borders.
The vessel, the ministry added, was pursued from the border until it got to the general area of Monrovia about nine nautical miles offshore King Gray Community, Roberts Field Highway. The Liberia Coast Guard physical contact with the vessel for tactical reasons by 0000hrs on 23rd July 2023 while keeping surveillance on the vessel at position 06o 07’ N, 010o 47’ W.
“Subsequently, Liberia Coast Guard Station Buchanan Response Team was activated to patrol to deter and apprehend pirates escaping to the Southeast.”
The Liberian Coast Guard upon order, initiated actions to secure the vessel by 1200hrs by conducting force boarding and securing the lower deck of the vessel which led the pirates to begin suppressive firing on the Liberian Coast Guard Special Operation team. whose response overwhelmed the pirates that led three pirates to launch a life raft to escape the vessel leaving one pirate to be captured and two crew members rescued.
“After a few hours of negotiations for the remaining pirates to surrender failed, they held the breach for hours with the remaining crew members under hostage the special operation team broke into the breach apprehended the second pirate, and rescued the remaining 21 crew members. 3 armed pirates ran into hiding compartments. The vessel was secured, brought to port, and the clearing continue up to this morning.”