S. Korea marks 3rd anniversary of Somali pirate operation

BUSAN (Yonhap) — The South Korean Navy on Tuesday carried out a combat search and rescue operation as it celebrated the third anniversary of the rescue of Korean sailors from Somali pirates near the Gulf of Aden.

Three years ago, Navy commandos on an anti-pirate mission raided a South Korean freighter that had been hijacked by Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea, rescuing all 21 crew members and killing eight pirates.

The 300-strong Cheonghae unit has been deployed in the Gulf of Aden since early 2009 as part of global efforts to tackle piracy in the region.

Adm. Hwang Ki-chul, navy chief of staff, hosted a ceremony at the Navy headquarters in the southern port city of Busan with 80 service members who attended the operation as well as 330 senior military officials and veterans.

Last week, South Korea dispatched the 15th batch of troops to the Gulf of Aden to continue their mission off the coast of Somalia.

So far, Cheonghae unit has rescued a total of 25 ships in 17 operations, safely escorting 6,872 ships, including 3,332 Korean vessels, according to the Navy.

ejkim@yna.co.kr