Seoul - Naval special forces from South Korea on Friday stormed a South Korean-operated ship hijacked by Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea, freed all 21 crew members aboard and killed eight pirates, South Korea's military said.
The captain of the chemical tanker Samho Jewelry was shot in the stomach in the operation 1,300 kilometres off north-east Somalia but his injury was not life-threatening, said Colonel Lee Bung Woo, a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Five pirates were captured, he said.
The crew had been held since January 15 when its 11,500-ton, Norwegian-owned ship was hijacked in waters between Oman and India. It was sailing at the time from Sri Lanka to the United Arab Emirates.
The rescue by South Korean navy SEALs was made three days after the South Korean destroyer Choi Young exchanged fire with the pirates as it was pursuing the hijacked Samho Jewelry and the pirates aboard disembarked to try to capture a Mongolian vessel.
Three South Korean soldiers suffered minor injuries in the battle and were treated in a hospital in Oman while several pirates fell into the water and were believed to be dead, Lee said.
The Choi Young, which is part of an anti-piracy operation off Somalia, had continued to dog the pirates since Tuesday, backed by an Omani navy ship
Eight of the sailors aboard the Maltese-flagged vessel Samho Jewelry are South Korean, 11 were from Myanmar and two from Indonesia, according to the South Korean government.