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Royal Navy rescues pirate hostages

British forces have freed an Italian cargo ship that was attacked by pirates off Somalia.

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

All of them are now safe and free, the Italian defence ministry said.

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

Britain's Ministry of Defence 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 Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa.

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 that the attack had occurred 620 miles off Somalia as the crew was hauling scrap iron to Vietnam on a journey that had begun on September 20 in Liverpool.