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German warship helped fend off pirate attack

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  • German warship was involved in fending off pirate attack on a Japanese tanker
  • Helicopter was sent to the scene while ship made for tanker at full speed
  • Pirates fired on tanker, with fuel leaking from bullet holes in its hull
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BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- A German warship was involved in fending off Monday's pirate attack on a Japanese tanker near the coast of Somalia, a spokesman for the German armed forces said Wednesday.

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The Japanese tanker Takayama was attacked by pirates but received a helping hand from a German warship.

The German warship Emden was in the area Monday when it received a distress call from the tanker Takayama, said Frigate Captain Roland Vogler-Wander, a spokesman for the German armed forces in Potsdam, Germany.

The distress signal from the Takayama was "Tanker is being threatened by boat with weapons and being fired upon," Vogler-Wander said.

He said the Emden was 50 nautical miles away at the time and immediately set a course for the Japanese ship at full speed.

A helicopter also took off from the Emden for the Takayama, he said. Upon arrival, the attacking boat had already retreated, bullet holes were visible in the Takayama's hull, and fuel was leaking into the ocean, he said.

The tanker's owner said no one on board suffered injuries in the attack, which Yemen's state news agency, Saba, blamed on Somali pirates.

The 150,000-ton Japanese tanker was 440 kilometers east of the Yemeni port of Aden en route to Saudi Arabia when the attack took place, according to a statement from the owner, Nippon Yusen K.K.

Piracy has been rampant in the waters off Somalia for years, and Monday's attack followed several recent incidents of piracy in the same area.

Pirates seized the crew of a luxury French yacht off the coast of Somalia on April 4. The crew members were later released after the pirates received a ransom for them.

Some of the abductors were captured as they tried to flee with the money. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

-- CNN's Frederik Pleitgen contributed to this report.

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