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Chinese navy officer Gong Kaifeng was presented with a certificate in recognition of his work in helping to rescue a merchant ship and capture three Somali pirates last year. Photo:

China’s Somali pirate-catching commando gets a hero’s welcome back home

Leader of elite Dragon Commando unit honoured for his bravery in the Gulf of Aden last year

A Chinese navy officer who led a mission last year to rescue a merchant ship in the Gulf of Aden, which also resulted in the capture of three pirates, has been honoured as a hero in his home city, according to local media reports.

Gong Kaifeng was visited by the vice-mayor of Fuzhou, in eastern China’s Jiangxi province, on Wednesday, and praised for his achievements on the high seas, news website reported.

In April, Gong and 15 of his colleagues from Dragon Commando – the name given to the navy’s special forces unit – boarded the Tuvalu-flagged cargo ship OS35 after it had sent out a distress call.

The mission was the first of its kind by a Chinese team against Somali pirates, the report said.

Once on board the vessel, Gong helped to free the 16 Filipino crew members who had been in hiding. It was not entirely clear when the three pirates were captured, but contemporary media reports said they were handed over to Somali authorities sometime later.

Dragon Commando is an elite unit that is trained to fight in any situation on land or at sea. Its members have been engaged in overseas missions since 2008, and in 2015 helped with the evacuation of nearly 600 Chinese citizens and 225 foreign nationals from the port city of Aden during the 2015 civil war in Yemen.

The Chinese action film Red Sea Operation directed by Dante Lam and starring Zhang Yi is loosely based on that story.