The Spanish navy has captured and arrested 11 Somalis suspected of piracy after they chased a Seychelles-flagged fishing vessel in the Indian Ocean earlier this week, says the Spanish defence ministry.
Early on Monday the fishing vessel, with several Spanish crewmembers on board, was pursued by pirates aboard two boats whilst travelling around 260 nautical miles north west of the Seychelles. Apparently automatic weapons and rocket propelled grandes were clearly visible. The crew fired warning shots at the pirates and alerted the Spanish naval operations centre (COVAM). Spain participates in the European Union’s Atalanta anti-piracy operation in the Indian Ocean.
COVAM then conctacted the Spanish frigate Canarias, with a SH-60B helicopter from the ship subsequently being sent out to intercept the pirates, the Spanish navy has said. After a couple of attempts by the pirate whaler to flee, the helicopter fired warning shots to make it stop. The pirates then threw equipment overboard just before the Canarias arrived.
“The ‘Canarias’ managed to capture the skiff with eight suspected pirates on board and found no weapons or material related to piracy, and soon afterwards intercepted the whaler, which had three suspects on board.” The whaler was taken alongside the Canarias while the pirate skiff was destroyed.
The 11 suspected pirates remain aboard the Canairas until authorities in the Seychelles take custody of them. Seychelles is one of a few countries in east Africa and the Indian Ocean region to try pirates and agreed to accept the Somalis captured by the Canarias. In February it sentenced ten Somali pirates to 20 years in prison. Seychelles and Somalia earlier this year signed an agreement that paves the way for Somali prisoners to be repatriated so Somalia.
AFP reports that two Somali men are being tried in Spain over the hijacking of a Spanish fishing vessel in 2009.
Canarias (F86) is the last of the six Spanish-built Santa Maria-class frigates, which are based on the US Oliver Hazard Perry class design. The ship was commissioned in service in 1995 and is armed with a 76 mm gun, Mk 46 torpedoes, Mk 13 Missile Launcher and 20 mm 12 barrel weapons system.