Seven detained after special forces end suspected tanker hijacking off Isle of Wight

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An oil tanker has docked in Southampton hours after special forces raided the vessel and rescued the crew from a suspected hijacking.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) tweeted that according to "initial reports" the crew were safe and well.

About 16 Special Boat Service (SBS) commandos boarded the Nave Andromeda off the Isle of Wight on Sunday evening and regained control.

Two Royal Navy Merlin helicopters were involved, along with two Royal Navy Wildcat helicopters.

A Royal Navy frigate, believed to be HMS Richmond, was on standby. The security incident lasted about 10 hours.

"All crew on board have been accounted for," said Sky News home affairs correspondent Mark White.

The operation was launched after Hampshire Police received reports that a "number of stowaways" were on board and had made "verbal threats towards the crew".

Authorisation was given by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel in response to the "suspected hijacking", the MoD said.

Sky News defence correspondent Alistair Bunkall said the "textbook" operation was "pretty swift" and what is known in military terms as a "flash to bang".

It was all over in seven minutes, maritime risk expert Chris Parry told Sky News, with the commandos being roped on board.

The SBS is based in Poole and the operation was in its "backyard", Bunkall added.

Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons defence committee, said the incident would have triggered a "multi-agency alarm" leading to "well-rehearsed classified protocols".

Maritime strategist and defence analyst Eric Grove said tankers like the Nave Andromeda "don't have many people on board", meaning that "small numbers of stowaways can have an extraordinary amount of leverage".

He added: "We've been seeing it with pirate attacks in various parts of the world."

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said the Nave Andromeda was "in ballast" and had no oil on board.

The defence secretary said: "I commend the hard work of the armed forces and police to protect lives and secure the ship.

"In dark skies, and worsening weather, we should all be grateful for our brave personnel. People are safe tonight thanks to their efforts."

Home Secretary Priti Patel tweeted: "We are thankful for the quick and decisive action of our police and armed forces who were able to bring this situation under control, guaranteeing the safety of all those on board."

Hampshire Police said concerns for the crew's welfare were reported at 10.04am on Sunday.

The vessel went into an erratic zig-zagging pattern at about 10.45am, tracker images showed.

The ship was approximately six miles off the coast of Bembridge and had been travelling towards Southampton, police said.

Richard Meade, of shipping news journal Lloyd's List, said it was understood the stowaways had been onboard since the ship left Nigeria, although it had made anchorage stops in the Canary Islands and south of Sant Nazaire, France.

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