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Russian tanker escapes pirate attack off Somalia

MOSCOW, May 10 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian oil tanker was attacked by pirates in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday but managed to escape with no casualties or damage, a Russian shipping company said.

The Liberia-flagged tanker, the NS Spirit, with the 22-member Russian crew, was sailing from South-East Asia to a Persian Gulf port with 36,000 tons of gasoline on its board. It was attacked at 1:00 p.m. Moscow time (9:00 GMT) on Sunday while passing through the Gulf of Aden, the Novorossiysk Shipping Company said.

The Novorossiysk Shipping Company and the tanker owner, Novoship, are integrated into Sovcomflot, Russia's largest shipping company.

"The crew timely detected a boat with armed people, which was moving towards the vessel and made two preventive salvoes with onboard fireworks. The NS Spirit crew immediately got in touch with the Admiral Panteleyev missile destroyer staying 15 nautical miles away from the tanker," the Novorossiysk Shipping Company said.

A helicopter then took off the Admiral Panteleyev destroyer to help the tanker.

"Thanks to competent and decisive actions by Novoship sailors, and also swift interaction between the tanker and the Russian Navy ship, the pirates ceased their chase. All the crew members are fine and are ready to continue their voyage," the shipping company said.

Since the start of this year, almost a hundred vessels have been attacked by Somali pirates. A number of countries, including Russia, have deployed warships to protect the Gulf of Aden.

As of May 5, Somali pirates were reported to be holding 17 ships and some 300 crew.

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