London: In a daring raid, six Indian crew members were on Tuesday rescued along with 17 others after their hijacked ship was stormed by British and American naval forces without meeting any resistance from the Somali pirates.

A UK Ministry of Defence spokesman said the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Fort Victoria and a US frigate were sent to help the seized vessel.

The 56,000-ton bulk carrier Montecristo was hijacked 620 miles off Somalia on Monday by pirates in a small boat.

"We can confirm that late this morning the RFA Fort Victoria, currently on NATO counter-piracy operations east of Suez, responded to calls to assist a pirated Italian merchant
ship, the MV Montecristo, along with an American navy frigate.

Due to the presence of the warships, 11 suspected pirates on-board the pirated vessel surrendered without force," the spokesman said.

There were 23 crew members, including six Indians, seven Italians and 10 from Ukraine.

The D'Alessio Group-owned cargo ship, carrying scrap metal, was making its way from Liverpool to Vietnam when it was intercepted by pirates.

The Royal Navy boarded the ship and met no resistance, before detaining 11 suspected pirates.

Expressing "great satisfaction" Italian Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa said UK and US forces had used helicopters as part of the rescue mission.

The suspected pirates would be handed over to Italian authorities, he said.

The ship had set off from the port of Liverpool and was understood to be en route to Vietnam.

Media reports said that as soon as the Italian ship left the escort of a Japanese naval vessel and entered the Indian Ocean it came under attack from the pirates.

(Agencies)