Operation Dawn 8: Gulf of Aden (Malay: Operasi Fajar 8) was a naval operation carried out by the Royal Malaysian Navy against pirates in the Indian Ocean on 20 January 2011. In response to the hijacking of MV Bunga Laurel, the Malaysian Shipborne Protection Team deployed an attack helicopter and 14 members of the naval counter-terrorism group PASKAL in two rigid-hulled inflatable boats to retake the vessel and rescue the crew. After one night of trailing the tanker, the Malaysian forces successfully retook the ship by force on 20 January 2011, resulting in the wounding of three and the capture of four out of 18 pirates, and all 23 vessel crewmembers rescued.
On 20 January 2011, the Panama-owned, Japanese-registered and Malaysian operated chemical tanker MV Bunga Laurel, was carrying lubricating oil and ethylene dichloride worth an estimated RM30 million ($9.8 million) sailing through to Singapore when it was attacked by a group of Somali pirates 300 nautical miles (600 km; 300 mi) southeast of the port of Muscat, Oman.
The hijacking of Bunga Laurel occurred about 300 nautical miles (560 km) (co-ordinate Latitude 20’ 14.73N Longitude 083’ 39.96E) east of Oman at 11:40 pm (MST), two hours after it was separated from a Navy secure escort in the Gulf of Aden. The tanker was boarded by seven of the 18 pirates armed with AK-47 rifles and pistols who came using skiff-type boats and firing at random. During the attack, 23 Filipino crewmembers on board the vessel activated the Ship Security Alert System before taking cover in a specially designed security compartment near the vessel's engine room. All lights were turned off and the main engines were shut down.
The MISC Emergency Reporting Center (ERC) was alerted by a distress signal at about 11:37 pm from the MV Bunga Laurel. The MISC made a phone call to Bunga Laurel, but no response was obtained from the tanker. At exactly 11.40 pm, Bunga Mas Lima called MISC ERC to report that Bunga Laurel had been attacked and pirates were attempting to board the ship by using skiffs. A suspected mothership was also reported in the vicinity.
The 14 commando forces in two boats, led by Lieutenant Commander Mohd Maznan Said and Lieutenant Noor Asri Roslan, were dispatched from Bunga Mas Lima located as far as 14 nautical miles (26 km) at 1:20 am. At the same time, the Fennec attack helicopter which was piloted by Lieutenant Jason Solomon John went airborne to provide reconnaissance and aerial gunfire from its mounted general purpose machine gun.
A firefight broke between the pirates of Bunga Laurel and snipers from Bunga Mas Lima and the RMN helicopter occurred. The remaining pirates holding the mothership attempted to move closer to Bunga Laurel to provide help but was pinned down by the machine gun and sniper shots from the Fennec helicopter.
Once Bunga Mas Lima approached Bunga Laurel to provide fire support, pirates finally contacted Bunga Mas Lima to surrender. The pirates from the mothership attempted to approach Bunga Laurel to provide assistance, but was thwarted by the sniper team in the Fennec helicopter.
On 20 January 2011, the pirates boarded Bunga Laurel. Seven pirates emerged from a skiff to hijack it. With only eleven pirates remaining behind, a group of commando forces were deployed from Bunga Mas Lima in two rigid-hull speedboats. The Fennec attack helicopter was dispatched to provide reconnaissance.
All seven of the pirates got into a gunfight with the commandos resulting in three of the pirates being injured. The engagement was over within minutes. No casualties were reported from the rescue team or the Bunga Laurel's crew members. The swift action prevented MISC from losing the cargo worth an estimated RM30mil and saved the 23 Filipino crew members on board the vessel.
Bunga Mas Lima had just completed the task of escorting the tanker and another MISC liquefied natural gas carrier, MV Seri Balhaf, bound for Fujairah, to a safe zone called Easton 4 in the Gulf. All seven captured pirates admitted that they had used one of the previously captured vessels as their mother ship. However, the status of damage to the mothership and injury of the pirates who were on it is uncertain because the attack was carried out at night.
After the Malaysian tanker was able to proceed safely, the crew of Bunga Mas Lima recovered the remnants of the hijacker's weapons. A few AK-47 assault rifles including one modified AKM rifle and ammunition magazines were retrieved, along with Soviet-made Tokarev TT-33 semi-automatic pistols and other equipment.
After news of the incident reached Malaysia, Malaysian Prime Minister Dato' Seri Najib Tun Razak congratulated the Royal Malaysian Navy on its success in rescuing the Malaysian chemical tanker, saying the government was studying international laws on how to deal with detained pirates. The Prime Minister said that the authorities would determine whether to bring the suspects under their jurisdiction or if they should take other appropriate action.
According to Maritime Institute of Malaysia senior fellow Nazery Khalid, the action by PASKAL proved Malaysia's resolve in safeguarding its maritime interests and its commitment to fighting piracy. An official with the London-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said, prior to any operation, the rescue team should first ensure the ship's crew was safe before boarding the vessel. On 22 January 2011, the news of this success began to spread in newspapers and international news agencies AFP and Reuters.
The Royal Malaysia Police took charge of investigations involving seven pirates who allegedly attacked Bunga Laurel in the Gulf of Aden on 20 January 2011. Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar said the police were taking statements from the crew members of the vessel as well as the commandos from the navy elite PASKALs. Apparently all pirates, aged 15 to 35, had no identification documents on them. The police chief would also seek the Immigration Department's assistance.
The suspects were brought to Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital in Klang for a medical examination after they arrived in Port Klang at 4:00am. They were detained at Bukit Jalil Detention Centre after the police had successfully obtained a seven-day remand order. Seven hijackers, including three minors, face a possible death sentence under Malaysian law for attempting to hijack Bunga Laurel.
They were prosecuted in the Magistrate Court on 11 February 2011, on charges of robbery with discharging their firearms at Malaysian forces with intent to cause death or seriously wound those on board Bunga Laurel. The offences were committed on board the Bunga Laurel at the co-ordinates Latitude 20 '14.73N Longitude 083' 39.96E, 250 nautical miles from the coast of Oman. Under Section 3 of the Firearms Act (Increased Penalties) 1971 (Act 37) along with Section 34 of the Penal Code, the offence carries the mandatory death penalty if convicted.
Earlier, Deputy Prosecutor Mohd Abazzafree Mohd Abbas told the court, all the accused did not speak Malay or English but the prosecution called one Somali student from Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), Yaser Mohamad Ahmad to translate for them. Malaysian prosecutors filed charges that carried the death penalty Friday against the seven pirate suspects in an attack on a Malaysian-operated ship, in the first such charge in Southeast Asia, and the second in Asia (after South Korea) against the African sea bandits.
By bringing them to the country after rescuing the vessel and booking them, Malaysia is following in the steps of the US, Germany, South Korea and the Netherlands which have charged foreign pirates who attacked their vessels in international waters.
The pirates were identified as Ahmed Othman Jamal (25), Abdil Eid Hasan (20), Koore Mohamed Abdile (18) and Abdi Hakim Mohd Abdi (18), and each were explained the charges in their native language in front of the Magistrate Siti Shakirah Mohtarudin. The names of three 15-year-old juveniles were not announced. All seven are accused of using firearms against the Malaysian forces—a charge which carries the death sentence. But prosecutors said three 15-year-old suspects would not face execution because they were too young.
In September 2013, the Malaysian High Court sentenced four of the seven Somali to 4 years in prison, and the other three faced 7 years in prison.