Somalia’s prime minister has promised to help efforts to free a Spanish tuna fishing boat seized by pirates off the Somali coast, Spain said.
Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos spoke by telephone to Omar Abdirashid Ali Ibrahim to discuss the seizure of the Alakrana boat and its crew of 36, a government statement said.
“The number one authority in Somalia has committed himself to helping all the steps which the Spanish government is taking to liberate the Alakrana,” it said.
The Spanish ambassador in Kenya has also spoken to Somalia’s interior minister about the hijacking, it said.
Gangs from Somalia, some made up of former fishermen angered by the presence of foreign trawlers in their waters, have made tens of millions of dollars in ransoms by seizing boats in shipping lanes linking Europe to Asia.
The government of Somalia, where civil war has been going on for 18 years, controls only small pockets of the capital, Mogadishu.
The pirates hijacked the Alakrana in the Indian Ocean about 135 miles off the coast last week.
The Spanish navy intercepted a skiff in which two suspected members of the pirate gang were trying to make their way ashore. They have been charged with terrorism and armed robbery.
Yesterday, Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon ordered the two to be brought to Spain and kept in custody during the investigation into the hijacking.
In May, a Spanish court tried to bring a group of suspected Somali pirates to Spain for trial but eventually surrendered them to Kenya.
Many pirates escape prosecution and are set free because of doubts over the jurisdictions where they are captured or because Western governments fear they may try to claim asylum if transferred to their countries for trial.
Spain’s Defence Minister Carme Chacon yesterday ruled out putting marines on board Spanish fishing boats to help protect them from pirate attacks, as France has done.
“Legally, of course, it is not possible, but operationally it isn’t possible either,” Chacon told Spanish state television.
“What is possible, and what is recognised by the private security law, is for private security guards to do that for private boats for their private protection.”
Boats and ships could also use water cannon or electric fences to stop pirates boarding them, Chacon said.
Some shipping companies have called for the military to be used to protect their ships from pirates .
In July, France deployed 30 marines aboard its tuna fleet to fend off pirates.
Last year, crew members of a Spanish fishing boat were freed by pirates in the area after payment of a $1.2 million ransom (R9 million), according to a Somali official.
Somali pirates free Turkish ship after ransom
Somali pirates freed a Turkish ship yesterday after a pirate source said the hijackers received a $1.5 million (R11 million) ransom.
A regional maritime official confirmed the bulk carrier Horizon-1, which was seized on July 8 with 23 Turkish crew members on board, had been released.
“We accepted $1.5 million to release the Turkish ship,” one of the pirates, who gave his name as Abshir, told Reuters by telephone from the gangs’ stronghold of Eyl.
“We delayed leaving because of accounting: we were sharing out the money. We
disembarked from the ship this afternoon.”
Residents in Eyl said associates of the pirates held a big party to celebrate the ransom payment.
“There is too much noise. The pirates’ friends in Eyl are celebrating. Some have gone to welcome the pirates who took the ransom,” local man Abdiqadir Mohamed told Reuters by phone.
Andrew Mwangura of the Kenya-based East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme confirmed the ship, which was believed to be carrying sulphate when it was hijacked, had been released.
There was no immediate word on the condition of the crew.
Spanish media said at the time that the vessel had been en route from Jordan to Saudi Arabia when it was hijacked.