U.S. Navy Captures Pirates near Seychelles

A group of suspected pirates was captured Thursday after attacking a U.S. Navy frigate in the Indian Ocean, according to a statement released by the U.S. Sixth Fleet.

The USS Nicholas reported taking fire from a suspected pirate skiff shortly after midnight local time west of the Seychelles, the statement said. The Nicholas quickly returned fire and began pursuing the skiff, which was eventually disabled. A boarding team from the Nicholas subsequently captured and detained three people, the statement said.

The team discovered ammunition and several cans of fuel aboard the skiff, which was later sunk by the Nicholas.

Two more suspected pirates were captured on a confiscated “mother ship,” the statement said. The detainees will “remain in U.S. custody on board Nicholas until a determination is made regarding their disposition,” it said. (CNN)

The Pentagon is determining the next steps, and the suspects may be sent to Kenya to be tried in a piracy court there, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Thursday.

Pirate sources and a maritime source said that a Taiwanese ship had also been hijacked on Thursday. “My colleagues captured a Taiwanese ship after a hard chase today,” a pirate named Hassan told Reuters. “They were two ships traveling together but one sped off.” (Reuters)

Andrew Mwangura of the Kenya-based East Africa Seafarers Assistance Program said the Taiwanese ship Jin-chun Tsai 68 could have indeed been captured.

The Nicholas, based in Norfolk, Virginia, is part of the U.S. military’s Africa Command.

The waters off the coast of Somalia – the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean – have been plagued by Somali pirates over the last couple of years. To crack down on piracy, the international community has adopted measures including naval escorts and expanded monitoring. Pirates have been making tens of millions of dollars in ransoms, despite the presence of foreign navies off the coast of Somalia.

Last week, one pirate was killed and several others were detained after a private security team thwarted an attack against a Panamanian-flagged cargo ship, the MV Almezaan. A European Union naval force was called in to assist the vessel.

Attacks had created a two-year boom for specialist insurance cover, but stiff competition and moves by owners to better protect ships has taken the edge out of insurance costs. But analysts say the menace of piracy is far from contained, and unchecked growth in the rest of Africa, possible attacks in other key shipping channels and higher ransom demands will keep insurers interested in the long term.

Somali pirates are seizing ships as far as the Mozambique Channel and off the coast of India and have started targeting ships bringing merchandise to Mogadishu’s port. They are holding captive at least eight merchandized dhows, or small boats. Seven of them with 100 crew members, were hijacked over the weekend on their way to the United Arab Emirates from Somalia.

Another dhow, the Al-Barai, was seized on Wednesday after discharging its cargo in Mogadishu.

Al Shabaab, an Islamist group fighting Somali’s western-backed government, condemned the attacks on ships serving Somali businessmen.

“It’s inhumane to hijack ships carrying goods for Somali traders, there can be no excuse. They used to say they hunt foreign ships fishing illegally in Somalia. Those involved should release the ships,” Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, al Shabaab spokesman, told reporters. (Reuters)

However, a pro-government militia known as Ahlu Sunna said the rebels were boosting the pirate ranks. “Piracy is not the same as before, al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam are now the majority of pirates,” Sheikh Abdullahi Sheikh Abu Yusuf, an Ahu Sunna spokesman, told Reuters.

“These rebel Islamists now hold many boats including boats hired by Somalia traders.” (Reuters)

Experts say piracy will continue to be a problem until an effective government is established on Somalia’s lawless shores. The country has not had a functioning government for nineteen years.

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