Soldiers back from Somalia anti-piracy mission
reporting by Ivan M. Consiglio (HQ AFM Public Information Cell)
additional reporting Chris Scicluna (www.timesofmalta.com)
film by Paul Spiteri-Lucas (www.timesofmalta.com)
pics by Dutch Ministry of Defence combat media team
Monday, 5th July 2010
A detachment of 12 Maltese soldiers returned to Malta this morning after having served in anti-piracy operations off Somalia with the Dutch Navy.
They returned on the warship LPD Johan de Witt, their home for the past three months, and found relatives waiting for them at Boiler Wharf, in Senglea.
The participation of the Maltese troops was praised last month by Dutch Defence Minister Eimert van Middelkoop, who visited the ship and later also visited Malta.
The Maltese soldiers, he said, had completely integrated with the Dutch team."I was impressed by their professionalism."
The Maltese Vessel Protection Team on board the warship was deployed on various occasions to protect merchant ships that were transporting humanitarian cargo to Somalia.
The soldiers contributed to operations to deter and disrupt pirates from deploying to sea. They also participated in confidence-building with the local fishing community missions.
They came face to face with six pirates in the middle of last month when their skiff was intercepted in the Gulf of Aden.
As soon as those aboard the skiff realised they were dealing with a military vessel, they changed course towards the coast. The Dutch ship fired a number of warning shots in the skiff's direction. It stopped and the suspected pirates surrendered, with the AFM team securing the skiff and transferring the pirates onto the navy ship.
This was the first time that the Armed Forces of Malta deployed troops in theatre in an EU-led mission. Three members of the AFM's 1 Regiment are also in Uganda taking part in an EU training mission for Somali military personnel.
An "end of mission ceremony" was held on board later this morning in the presence of parliamentary assistant, Dr. Franco Debono, the Dutch Ambassador to Malta - His Excellency Mr Robbert Gabriëlse , Commander AFM - Brigadier Martin G. Xuereb and the Commanding Officer of the HNLMS Johan de Witt, Captian Ben Bekkering.
A Dutch Navy service-medal was presented to each of the twelve Maltese soldiers, for their successful completion of their tour of duty in the Gulf of Aden.