For the first time ever has Danish TV been granted access to a NATO warship out on live operations.
For three months will the 150 men and women on board Absalon fight pirates in the waters outside Somalia.
For the Danish soldiers it will be 3 months of action, hardships and unique solidarity.
And we are along at the frontline when Denmark goes pirate hunting.
You have permission to open fire.
If I'm shot it will be by something like this.
By something I hold the most of.
If they were amateurs they would have given up straight away, but these are remaining cool.
He's aiming on the hostages!
It's afternoon on the Danish warship Absalon.
But far from a normal afternoon.
Absalon has for 24 hours followed a pirate mothership with 25 pirates onboard.
He's turned 180 degrees hasn't he? Bring up the FLIR.
The warship has cut off its ability to flee and a battle is therefore unavoidable.
For Carsten, Absalons captain, the task is clear.
The pirates onboard Jelbut 40 must be stopped and the hostages freed.
The pirates are now also so close they pose a threat towards Absalons crew.
If we see an RPG pointed towards us, that's a primary threat -
- and we fire in self-defense.
If we are closer by and a rifle is lifted towards the hostages -
- we fire in self-defense for the hostages -
- in accordance with FKO's directives about inhumane and degrading treatment.
We should still be able to look ourself in the mirrors when we get home.
We don't let humans get slaughtered. Let's man our posts.
In the operations room Absalons commanders go to high alert.
Because of the pirates anti-armour weapons they all dress in combat uniforms.
It's the first time on this mission the threat from pirates is so high -
- that also the leaders onboard have to dress in fire retardant gear.
In the operations room Carsten stands ready.
Thanks to Absalons powerful camera he can watch the action on the screens -
- and see every move the pirates make.
Mike Papa here, thanks for that.
At the lower decks stand the leader for the Military Police.
If the mission is a success it's him and his men that will gather evidence on the boat afterwards.
But until he can move out he acts like an extra set of eyes for Carsten.
So it's my job to observe the Jelbut and come with messages to them.
On another deck stands men from the specially trained Frogman corps.
They are ready with the Gustav recoilless rifle -
- if the pirates resist Absalon and Carstens orders for surrender.
Which Carsten and his crew will find out shortly.
Distance 440 meters.
The Danes hope to quickly set the pirates out thanks to their overwhelming firepower.
Carsten prepares to fire the first warning shots towards the pirate mothership.
Begin shouting on the LRAD.
Through the giant megaphone LRAD Absalons interpreter tells the Somali pirates to surrender.
Listen! Everyone come out with your hands above your head!
The pirates are completely indifferent to Absalons massive salvos.
And makes no sign of surrendering.
Carsten knows it's important to show determination from the start.
Permission granted to fire second warning salvo.
I want it just infront.
The 50 year old captain Carsten Fjord Larsen bears the full responsibility for the top modern warship.
During this mission he will have to make difficult descisions -
- that could mean the difference between life and death for the pirates, the hostages and his own crew.
It's the descisions he make now that defines him as human and as chief for Absalon.
Before we start such an operation, -
- I have to establish with myself where the line goes.
We will of course solve the mission, but the ship and crew are also coming home.
-Distance 300 meters. -Place it 10 meters ahead.
In short bursts! Fire!
That was real close to his head.
They're drinking coffee.
It is now completely clear to Carsten and his crew what kind of pirates they are dealing with.
If they were amateurs they would have given up straight away, but these here are remaining cool.
In the operations room Carsten decides to take it a step further.
It's time to bring out the heavier weapons to stop the pirates and hopefully free the hostages.
-Are we firing the recoilless? -Yes.
He orders the elite Frogmen soldiers to fire a warning shot with the Gustav recoilless rifle.
The intention now is to allow the snipers to fire on the port side water tank.
Neither the machine gun or rocket fire in front or rear of the boat has had any effect.
Carsten decides to escalate the situation and allow his men to fire directly on the pirates boat.
Since the hostages are likely hidden under deck it's an order to be carried out with the utmost precision.
Open fire on the water tank.
I'm counting 1-2-3-4-5 pax in the middle.
And I can clearly see one RPG.
-Where? -Aft! Last man at the aft!
-Where? -He's got it on his shoulder.
He's got a red shirt.
The direct fire is apparently making the pirates nervous.
But they are still not surrendering, rather the opposite.
-Has he gone in position? -No he has not gone in position, he is still at the aft.
-With the weapon up? -On his shoulder.
An RPG is a serious threat towards Absalon. A grenade could pierce the hull -
- and in worst case scenario hit the operations room where Carsten and the officers are located.
We can still observe one person with RPG.
Roger. Copy that.
Chief, we have weapons.
If anyone points an RPG towards us we fire in self-defense.
SMI Leader. It looks like an RPG has been brought to the fore of the ship.
-I've told them if they see the RPG being pointed- -We fire.
Everyone on their toes now. Sharp focus.
The biggest dilemma you encounter is probably the process where you make the descision -
- "this is how I want it done, this is how it will be".
This is the goal. Because you have all these other thought processes, "what if"-
- what if you consider the situation wrong, what will you do.
This uncertainty and doubt is something I think should be there at all times.
Not take anything for granted. But this dilemma you experience, -
- are you sure of your descision? Are there any guarantees? There aren't.
On the signal deck stands 22 year old Helene.
She mans the HMG and has also spotted the pirates bringing out the heavier guns.
And she is complelely aware of the risk of being in direct combat with pirates.
If I'm shot by something like this.
In that regrard I'd be killed by something I work the most with. Probably sounds psychopathic!
It's my job and it's something I burn for -
- and one of my reasons for applying to the Navy was to hunt these pirates -
- so when you stand in such a situation -
- I have achieved exactly what I want from my job, and I know if I'm shot now -
- those at home know I was killed doing my dream.
Short bursts! Fire!
The massive fire is not having the effect Carsten was hoping for.
AK down on the deck.
Two AK down on the deck!
Down the sides.
One AK at the bow.
Absalons sniper has shot a hole in the boats single cruical water tank.
Carstens next step is to ensure the pirates don't flee in the two Skiffs on the deck.
I want to take out the Skiff engines. We can't fire on it just now.
But we can fire a non-disabling on the rear followed up by sniper shots on the water tank.
-We got the gas tank? -No, the water tank.
I've shot a the gas tank but nothing happened.
-A dolphin! -Dolphin dolphin!
Suddenly happens what the crew on Absalon fears.
They are moving the hostages out on deck.
We'll continue laying close to it and fire into their wheelhouse.
AK in the back! He's aiming on the hostages!
Absalon is engaging a hostile pirate ship.
Despite numberous salvos both in front and directly to the pirates boat -
- there's no sign of the pirates surrendering to Commander Captain Carsten and his crew.
The pirates have just pulled their most desperate and critical trump card.
The defenseless hostages.
They are signaling the hostages to move out on the deck.
Place the hostages visibly at the front. Place them ahead of you.
In the operations room are the captain and his colleagues unsure what the pirates are planning to do.
Either the pirates want to surrender or they want to use the hostages as human shields.
We should get SMI in the boats.
Looks like they are waiting out there but let's be completely sure what's going on.
Are they still standing with weapons?
Yeah that's received.
We're holding fire to see what happens.
Go more to port, those are the hostages.
Can you go back?
Carsten realizes the pirates are not going to surrender.
The hostages have instead been moved to the water tanks Absalon just fired upon.
They are not ready for boarding, cancel the boarding.
The top trained elite soldiers from the Frogman Corps was ready to board the pirates and free the hostages -
- but the boarding is stopped, it's still too dangerous to close in on the pirates.
There's one behind the hostages now.
I think the one with the life jacket is the leader.
They got more hostages gathered in a group now. Hard to tell how many.
Can we see a clear visual threat towards the hostages?
The captain is now in a dilemma.
If the pirates start threatening hostages he has to decide if they should try to shoot the pirates.
He knows it could escalate the conflict and put the hostages even more at danger.
Basic dilemma is the hostages.
We have the hostages by the Skiff engines.
The target we can engage is the water tanks.
We can't fire on the Skiff engines because the hostages are sitting there.
But we will fire into the wheelhouse to see if we can't knock some systems out.
While also giving continious fire to the bow and stern, -
- with a heavy machine gun.
In order to always keep the pressure on them up.
Into the wheelhouse.
The wheelhouse is just aft of the machine room.
No reaction on the hostages. No reaction anywhere.
-We're firing flashbangs. -100% focus on what's happening over there.
We keep up the pressure and fire into their wheelhouse.
Trying to take out lights and power if we can.
Fire at the bottom chimney.
And eventually putting pressure on the leader by firing sniper shots close to him.
That's where we are now.
-But then what everyone was hoping to avoid. -Clearly aiming! Clearly aiming!
AK behind the hostages, he's aiming at them!
Reports that they are threatening the hostages behind the Skiff.
The pirathes are threatening the hostages to get Absalon to stop firing.
The Frogman Corps leader arrives at the operations room to talk to the captain about their options.
The one sitting between the Skiffs aiming at the hostages. He's the leader.
-Where. -Here, he's running the show.
?? -I'll go up and take a look.
The captain is about to decide if they should shoot the pirates leader that is threatening the hostages.
It's a serious desicion that could cost the life of one or more hostages.
Therefore he insists on getting full overview of the situation.
-Where the fuck is he? -Between the two Skiffs.
If the situation happens again... That's him, he's running the show.
-Can you shoot the rifle out of his hands? -It will be difficult.
They're sitting and threatening the hostages.
Can you take out the chimney? Shoot it down?
Sure. Can we fire non-disabling close to him?
Carsten gives his orders.
The Frogmen are going to fire warning shots up close to the pirate threatening the hostages.
The one that points the gun on the hostages, we will fire non-disabling shots close to him.
The way he's pointing at them, it's kind of on-off.
There's no constant visual threat. And nothing has been called out.
We will shoot the chimney and fire non-disabling shots close to him.
Then see what the reaction is.
The captain instructs the Frogmen's to fire close to a pirate that is posed to shoot the hostages.
If he seriously takes aim and charges his weapon then they can shoot him to protect the hostages.
Clear constant threath.
The dilemma, will you fire on a pirate that's about to shoot a hostage -
- that's a descision you have to live with afterwards as well.
That's not a question of law in my eyes, it's a question of ethics and moral.
And really there are people in a very exposed situation where they can't do anything.
Am I acting correctly on their behalf? Do I hit the right descisions?
But you have to believe so. That your choices are correct.
And just hope you also have that little portion of luck with you as well.
Carsten remains cool. He orders the men to fire even more on the pirates boat.
This will show the pirates it has not helped them to bring the hostages on the deck.
-Do you see the gas tanks? -Yes!
Take the chimney.
We're firing on the chimney.
Tag the gas tank.
Provide non-disabling fire with the HMG to the bow -
- by the waterline.
Five short bursts! Fire!
The pirates boat heels violently and it's hard for Helene to fire precisely with the HMG.
At one point it strikes me I could really hit them.
The distance I got was incorrect -
- so I could see my bullets fly straigth over the bow, if anybody had been on deck I could easily have taken them.
We have one AK among the hostages.
Man with AK moving midship to the Skiffs behind the hostages.
Standing behind with AK.
Man to the right behind them is armed.
They're signaling something to us.
No reaction from hostag- Wait they are waving.
Telling us to go away.
Some are waving.
They are waving at us.
The hostages are waving us away.
It's something they've been instructed to do. It's not their own idea.
It's three hours since Absalon fired the first warning shot.
The pirates are still resisting. The captain must now apply even more pressure on the pirates.
-Close in and fire gas. -That will also affect the hostages.
It will go over.
We are going to fire gas.
We have AK's onboard. We are closing in to 150 yards to fire gas.
-Should we warn the hostages first in Arabic? -The Somalis will understand.
-But we could call it over. -We can say we are now firing gas, surrender.
Put down your weapon and surrender, put down your weapon and follow our instructions.
Or hands in the air, fucking whatever.
But they have RPG on board.
Should we get SMI ready at 150 yards?
Everyone on their toes again.
Be ready for what happens in there when we come close.
20 meters short.
No effect that there.
Short. He's aiming at the hostages!
Suddenly there's commotion between the pirates and hostages.
The pirates are leading men to the Skiffs now.
Man with AK, blue t-shirt and red boxers, they are walking towards port side.
Pirate with his back towards us port side.
The boat stops which could be a sign the pirates either want to give up -
- or further escalate the fight.
-They're throwing weapons overboard. -They are throwing something overboard.
Calm now. The bear hasn't been shot yet.
But it's positive.
A lot of weapons.
Status is after long time pressure towards the pirates and intensive fire from the machine guns, -
- we've fired tear gas, we've shot their water tank, -
- and been firm with our display -
- the mothership has now stopped and we can see large amounts of weapons being thrown overboard.
We can see there's been a desire to make us think the hostages were about to be shot.
But we couldn't confirm rifles being charged and aimed at the hostages so we've had our suspicions -
- that they were close to surrendering.
After a four hour duel the pirates have seemingly given up.
On the signal deck the 22 year old gunner Helene relieved the fight is over.
When they throw the weapons overboard you think "Yes man! We succeeded!"
Then you stand and relax a bit. I gave a high-five to my ??
- because it was the highlight of the day.
If you take a look over again, see the hostages, -
- you can see them throwing kisses and praying.
You can just see the gratitude radiating from them.
You just feel good and you know what you do is important.
Even now that the pirates have thrown their weapons overboard it could still be a dangerous boarding for the Frogmen.
Without the hostages secured the situation isn't under control.
And the next minutes will show if the hostages joy and relief can last.
Transitioning to SMI boarding. SMI boarding team heading out.
On the Danish Warship Absalon has Carsten Fjord Larsen and his crew -
- just fought a four hour long battle with desperate pirates.
Everything suggests the pirates have surrendered.
But they are still together with 14 hostages onboard the pirate mothership.
This is the next in command updating the situation.
We're going to board.
The Danish Frogman Corps is preparing to board.
But nothing is certain until the pirates are disarmed and the hostages freed.
Over the megaphone the interpreter tells the pirates to take off their clothing so they can't hide any weapons.
Transitioning to SMI boarding. SMI boarding team heading out.
The Frogmen are specially trained to pacify the pirates and free the hostages.
The situation could quickly turn dangerous if the pirates have hidden any weapons onboard.
If the pirates really have surrendered the hostages will finally be free again.
First the Frogmen will secure the pirates.
We get them to sit with their hands on the head on the bridge deck.
With guns and other things ??
The pirates have realized the game is over and remains calm.
The Frogmen achieve control over the situation and the next phase of the boarding can begin.
Wire is free!
The Military Police comes sailing in their boat.
Send a message asking if there is any activity on the Jelbut.
They are standing with their hands on their heads and are ready.
-Copy that. -They are on the bridge deck. -Starboard side? -Yeah.
The Military Police is going to secure the evidence against the pirates.
And they are going to frisk the hostages to ensure nothing dangerous is brought back to Absalon.
Keep an eye on them from the back.
-First presumed hostage. -Yeah.
While the Military Police clears the hostages the boarding team is now going to action.
Boarding team prepare to launch.
The boarding team is going to transport the pirates and hostages back to Absalon.
The pirates mothership has received so many shots there's a risk someone's been hit.
You will take the hostages first?
Yeah that's correct, unless someone's injured.
We will get the hostages over first and then we will consider the situation.
DJ who's the group leader for the Military Police stands ready on Absalon -
- to take care of the important task of receiving the hostages thereafter the pirates.
Kind of surprising really, just surrendering like that, you wouldn't expect it.
They are pretty calm now, taken off their clothing as we asked.
To make sure they don't have any hidden weapons on them.
But it went nice, no injured or dead as of now.
But they got quite the amount of shots.
Don't think we will find any weapons, probably threw them all overboard as we observed.
Boarding leader Martin now faces his biggest task during the mission -
- as he is about to transport hostages and pirates to Absalon.
We're going to pick up the hostages on Jelbut 40.
Get them over and see if they are alright and make sure everything is ok.
Then we will get the presumed pirates.
For the last four hours the hostages have been unsure if they would stay alive.
The hostages are very very very happy. They've been trapped very very long.
They are really happy to be free.
The first hostages arrive at Absalon.
Here they are welcomed by an interpreter and Military Police.
Finally they can feel safe again after two months of imprisonment.
In order to identify the hostages DJ and the Military Police makes sure everyone is photographed.
The last hostages are sailed away from the mothership and pirates that has trapped them for months.
While the hostages are in safety and receiving a warm welcome on Absalon -
- an entirely different welcome is being prepared for the pirates.
I would not want to be taken prisoner by those frogs
Now we are going to bring over the pirates you can see on the aft of the ship.
We will do it in two turns with two boats with two men as security on each boat.
Then they will be brought up on starboard side of Absalon.
Be photographed and escorted down to the cell area.
When we get the pirates onbard you will stay down here and we'll secure here.
Have you received the last four?
Yeah that's correct we have 14 hostages onboard now.
The hostages will help testify so the pirates can be prosecuted.
We are not gonna take any crap from these guys.
We start by putting them here and then we move them up there.
If anyone puts their feet in there you just kick them. We don't want them in there.
We'll sit here and secure.
We will take them both up yeah.
And if anybody tries anything just deck them.
While the hostages are safe on Absalon the pirates will now be transported to the Danish warship.
Yeah. Off with it.
The Danish soldiers are intentonally harsh and firm to keep the Somali pirates in shock.
DJ and his Military Police colleagues are responsible for the pirates onboard Absalon.
Twenty-three. Is that the last one?
-I think it's this one and one more. -Shut up man.
-They are many. -That's for sure.
They don't say much as you can see. They behave nice.
So yeah... Sitting here and enoying themselves.
DJ and Stine are happy with the succsessful operation being over.
-What do you say? -**** it.
-Didn't you do it last time? -Yeah but they were just 7 last time. This is with hostages and all!
When I transport pirates it's just to turn on the grim face.
An action that has lasted many hours is finally over.
And in the operations room it is time to evaluate the timeline.
Without falling to self-praise.
We can allow ourselves to say it went ok. We made a difference today.
What we planned was also what we executed and the entire organisation worked well together.
So it's a delight to say well done and thanks for today.
The roles have been switched. And while the pirates are prisoners in Absalons cages.
The hostages are allowed to feel like free men.
For the last two months have the hostages friends and family lived in fear of their fates.
But through Absalons satellite phone they may finally know they are safe.
Hallo. Good day Haji. How are you?
Hallo. Good day.
Thanks I'm fine. How are you?
On the signal deck stands the 22 year old gunner Helene with the satellite phone.
She's had the most dramatic day of her short career and is phoning home to Denmark to share with her father.
It was a special experience, the SMI team came over and they put the hostages out.
We were looking at them and you could just see their gratitude through their eyes.
They were throwing hand kisses and everything, it was super awesome.
So we made a difference. I was super happy.
The Somali pirate groups are now a mothership poorer.
And the 150 men on Absalon continue their Pirate Hunt.
-I think you're lying! -There was a fight in the cells.
What they have done.