Attack on the SPS Patiño

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Attack on the SPS Patiño
Part of Piracy in Somalia
Operation Atalanta
A14-Patiño.jpg
SPS Patiño A14
Date 12 January 2012
Location off Somalia, Indian Ocean
Result Spanish victory
Belligerents
 Spain Somali Pirates
Strength
1 replenishment oiler
1 helicopter
1 skiff
Casualties and losses
1 replenishment ship lightly damaged 1 killed
5 wounded
6 captured
1 skiff damaged and captured

On 12 January 2012 Somali pirates attempted to attack the Spanish Navy replenishment oiler SPS Patiño after mistaking her for a large merchant ship. The pirate skiff hit the Patiño with automatic fire before being repelled, damaged by return fire and captured after a brief chase by the vessel's helicopter. The encounter took place off the coast of Somalia and ended with the death of one pirate and the capture of six others.

Action

The SPS Patiño had been deployed on the Indian Ocean for her second tour as part of the European Union's Operation Atalanta since November 2011, when she departed from her home port of Ferrol.1 The Patiño was the flagship of the EU naval forces in Somali waters.2

At 03:30 on the morning 12 January 2012, while at anchor after escorting a World Food Programme ship with humanitarian aid to Mogadishu, Somalia,34 a sentry aboard the Spanish vessel gave the alert when he spotted a skiff alongside Patiño´s hull, with the obvious intention of boarding the ship. The skiff was manned by seven individuals, who opened fire on the Spanish unit with AK-47 rifles.5 The pirates apparently mistook the warship for a freighter.6 The Patiño was hit on her hull and funnel7 by 50 rounds in the ensuing gunbattle, which lasted up to two minutes.6 The Spanish vessel returned fire with her light armament, but when the pirates continued the aggression, the Spanish sailors proceeded to "neutralize" the threat with what the Spanish Ministry of Defence described as "self-defense fire",8 which forced the skiff to flee.7

The motor boat was then chased by one of the Patiño's SH-3 Sea King helicopters for 3,000 yards, warned by megaphone and eventually stopped after a last outburst across her bows from the helicopter's machine gun. During the pursuit the attackers threw overboard three ladders, two bags and seven rifles. The Spanish personnel captured six men of whom five were wounded, three of them seriously. The pirates declared that a seventh member of the crew was killed in the exchange of fire and that his dead body fell to the sea.910 The skiff, damaged by gunfire, was confiscated by the Spanish authority.7

Aftermath

Eloy Velasco, the judge in charge of the Audiencia Nacional of Spain ordered the arrested men taken to Spain for questioning under charges of piracy, possession of illegal weapons, damage to government property, and assault on members of the security forces. Velasco considers that the attack in international waters came under Spanish jurisdiction since the assault was carried out against Spanish citizens and no current agreement with a third country prevents this course of action.10 Since May 2009 there was a deal between the European Union and Kenya to judge in that country any act of piracy committed in the Indian Ocean, but by 2010 Kenya's High Court had ruled that the Kenyan government should put on trial only those subjects captured inside its territorial waters. The Court of Appeal overthrew the decision in October 2012.11

References








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