KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- A German military helicopter rescued an Egyptian ship from pirates who shot and injured a crew member while trying to board the vessel off the coast of Somalia on Thursday, an official said.
The bulk carrier with 31 crew was passing through the Gulf of Aden on its way to Asia when it was chased by gun-toting pirates in a speedboat, said Noel Choong of the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center.
A passing ship alerted the Kuala Lumpur-based bureau, which asked a multinational naval coalition force in the area to help, said Choong. A German warship responded immediately and sent a helicopter to assist, he told The Associated Press.
The helicopter foiled the hijacking and forced the pirates to flee, he said, but not before the assailants shot and injured a crew member while trying to board the ship.
The crew member was airlifted to the German ship for treatment, Choong said. No details were available on his condition.
Piracy has taken an increasing toll on international shipping this year, especially in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest sea lanes. Spurred by widespread poverty in their homeland, Somali pirates have made an estimated $30 million hijacking ships for ransom this year.
More than a dozen warships are now patrolling the vast gulf. Countries as diverse as Britain, India, Iran, America, France and Germany have naval forces in the waters or on their way there.
"Despite increased naval patrols, pirates are continuing to attack ships because the warships cannot be everywhere at the same time. But we are pleased with the quick assistance by the coalition force," Choong said.
Choong said there have been 110 pirate attacks this year in the Gulf of Aden, including 42 hijackings. Most were released after a ransom was paid, though 14, with more than 240 crew, are still being held.
Japan said Wednesday it is considering sending military ships to join the coalition. China is scheduled to send warships on Friday.