Italy Says U.S., U.K. Forces Free Ship From Pirates

ROME -- U.S. and British forces have freed an Italian cargo ship that was attacked by pirates off Somalia and arrested the assailants, the Italian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

The Montecristo was carrying 23 crew members -- seven Italians, six Ukrainians and 10 Indians -- when it was attacked Monday.

All of them are now safe and free, the ministry said, without saying whether the rescue occurred on Tuesday or late Monday.

The ministry said the operation was carried out by two navy ships -- one British and one American -- and coordinated by Italian Adm. Gualtiero Mattesi as part of NATO's Ocean Shield anti-piracy force. The 11 pirates were arrested after they surrendered, the ministry said.

Britain's Ministry of Defense confirmed that the Royal Navy "was involved in a compliant boarding" -- in which the pirates indicated they would surrender and sailors boarded the vessel to take them into custody.

"The danger of piracy has increased," said Italian Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa. He planned a news conference later Tuesday to discuss the operation that saved the Montecristo.

Pirates flourish off largely lawless Somalia by attacking passing ships, taking hostages and demanding ransoms to free them and the vessels.

The ship's owner, D'Alessio Group, said Monday that the attack had occurred 620 miles off Somalia as the crew was hauling scrap iron to Vietnam on a journey that had begun Sept. 20 in Liverpool, England.